Tag Archives: standards

The BSA – FUD, FUD, FUD

It’s well known that the BSA has been an industry mouthpiece and lapdog for commercial software vendors since its inception in the 90’s. However, the level of FUD ( fear uncertainty and doubt ) that now pervades it’s press releases and comments threatens to dispatch any remaining sense of respect for the BSA, to the proverbial computer cemetery in the sky.

Just this week, the following was spewed:

“BSA strongly supports open standards as a driver of interoperability; but we are deeply concerned that by seeking to define openness in a way which requires industry to give up its intellectual property, the UK government’s new policy will inadvertently reduce choice, hinder innovation and increase the costs of e-government,” said the lobbying group, which represents many proprietary software groups.

This was the result of the British Government’s recently expanded and clarified stance on open standards ( note that open standards and open source are not the same thing, an open standard does not need to be free as in code availability ).

But the BSA spouts nonsense like ‘requires industry to give up it’s IP’.

First, why not tell us the truth and say commercial software industry? Ah yes, never say more than you need to …

Second, open standards do not require someone providing such open standards, to relinquish its IP – it simply means that you shouldn’t charge for such an open standard or impress legal rights on anyone using your open standard.

Then we have a real zinger like ‘reduce choice, hinder innovation and increase the cost of …’

But nowhere does the BSA clarify and substantiate these comments. How exactly do open standards reduce choice? Surely if you’ve lowered the entry barriers to both creation and adoption of open standards, you incite further and varied development, leading to greater choice. Eg. instead of having one commercial company flogging their proprietary wares at hugely inflated prices, you now have that company and a number of others providing high quality options at low or perhaps no cost.

Hinder innovation? Surely having an open market helps innovation – this is the fundamental tenet of the free market society. And increase costs? Hmm not sure how that’s supposed to work.

The plain truth of the matter is that the BSA ( and their associated clients ) is worried that the introduction of open standards ( and open source ) will lead to a reduction in the usage of their products, leading to loss of profits. So instead of competing on technical merit, they reduce themselves to a laughing stock by spouting rubbish.

How does an organisation like the BSA expect anyone to take them seriously with nonsense like this? Well keep on talking BSA, because your credibility is just about gone.

Google to remove h.264 support from Chrome

… and the world cried! Well maybe just the h.264 camp …

So I thought I’d weigh in on  this delicate situation too and give my 2 cents. Some facts:

  • h.264 is a standard, not an open standard due it being patent encumbered
  • h.264 requires royalties to be paid under certain circumstances unlike VP8 which requires no payments; and just because h.264 may be free now for certain usage, does not mean this will stay the same in future
  • Google bundles flash so it’s a hypocrite: no, it allows its inclusion into Chrome via a plugin system – this is a big difference from including this functionality in the core of Chrome
  • MPEG-LA, the organisation behind the the patent pool of h.264 technologies, is run by a known patent troll and is already suing others on this topic
  • most hardware players support h.264 while few support WebM/VP8: so? why don’t the manufacturers just start supporting VP8 ( for free ) and divest themselves of the h.264 tax?

The posturing from the h.264 camp seems like another battle of trying to hang on to profits – that’s all these companies are interested in. Certainly not their customers. Open Standards are anethema to them – something that in their mind, will take away their monopolies and reduce profits. Brings to mind industry bodies like RIAA and MPAA that have been suing their customers for years – what a way to treat your income.

It’s time for Corporate Media America to wake up and realise that the world has changed. Fat cats and monopolies are fast fading into the rear-view mirror and openness is what we all want. Why should I pay you, big fat record distie, while the artists themselves have to settle for crumbs? Why should I pay you, patent troll, when you have no business function other than to leech off others?

The Internet is the great leveller, the mechanism of the masses, to provide a world where everyone can be equal. Democracy in action …

MS OFfice 2007 SP2 and ODF interoperability

I’ve waited a few days to blog on this particular issue so there would be time for those in the know to test how the new ODF format in Office 2007 SP2 works. Initial reports were that things were ( just ) ok but since then, it’s all gone downhill. One of the gurus in this area, Rob Weir, has done a lot of testing over the last few months with a wide variety of office applications. In his latest round of test, Office 2007 SP2’s support for spreadsheets is the worst by a large margin. Excel apparently strips out formulas when reading in an ODF spreadsheet!!! What?!?!?! To top this, when writing out spreadsheets in ODF format, Excel keeps the formulas but puts them into an Excel name space – different to what OpenOffice, other ODF apps and the spec itself says.

What is interesting here is that the Microsoft-sponsored CleverAge plugin for Office works quite well; in fact this plugin has upped the ante by fixing a lot of issues in their earlier code. Question: why can CleverAge with Microsoft support get it right when MS themselves can’t?

A few possiblities:

1. this is a first try for MS in Office ( however they have a lot of resources to lean on so this doesn’t quite ring true )

2. ODF 1.1 does not define spreadsheet formulas ( sure but conformance and interoperability are not mutually exclusive )

3. MS is trying to deliberately do a poor implementation of ODF to infer the ODF is poor

Whatever the issue, you may want to assume the position that Office still has no ODF support otherwise you may run into issue. Herewith some links from PJ at Groklaw and Rob Weir’s page on the issue.

Microsoft’s AstroTurfing

Microsoft’s bullying tactics in the IT field are well known but one would have thought that they might have stopped with the AstroTurfing by now, seeing as many are wise to their tactics. But not according to one of their Technology Evangelists, James Plamondon.  For those unfamiliar with the term, AstroTurfing means that you, through covert means, attack opposition for gain ( ie. to mask that it has not come from you ) or through invalid advertising ( and now blogging ) inject false information about your opposition into the wider net. Examples include sending ‘gifts’ to bloggers for favorable reviews, or attacking journalists writing unfavorable reviews, though alternate media.

For those not used to the lengths that Microsoft will go or has gone to, take a look at the following post regarding the OOXML standards process and how MS seeks to monopolise the system.  And of course the now famous Massachusetts ODF issue. Microsoft essentially steamrolled and bullied the controllers of the decision using political influence to the point that people lost their jobs and resigned. Another example is Microsoft’s touting of ( non-existent? ) patents being exceeded by OpenSource projects,  similar to SCO’s farcical legal challenge against IBM and others. SCO never could provide evidence surrounding this so called smoking gun – something which should’ve been easy considering the data retention abilities of the internet. In fact the opposite occurred and this is possibly why Microsoft has never gone after any OSS projects as they likely would end up the loser as well. It seems that nothing is sacred to Microsoft.

And still, the number of people using commercially developed software from disreputable companies like Microsoft, is astonishing. The fact that there are well-suited, authored and freely available solutions available seems to slip them by. Why?

An acquaintance recently asked me to look into their dual PC which failed to boot the Windows XP partition correctly. The Ubuntu partition was used on occasion and contained a number of documents and pictures. They asked me to fix the Windows partition and move the documents from the working Ubuntu partition to the broken Windows partition, once it was fixed. Reason? There were a few document types they couldn’t ( or didn’t know how to ) open from their email client. Astonishing – why would someone suffer issues just because they were afraid to ask a question on usage?

Many questions and few answers. Is this ignorance? Is it MS’ hold on people due to stature? Due to an inbred resistance to anything else? To change? Advertising?

The fact is that change is coming whether you like it or not. FOSS has changed the landscape of more that just development ideologies and methodologies. It’s touching politics, social convention, standardisation and policy making. It’s time to get on the bandwagon or get left behind. Just like Microsoft is.

ISO issues generate more discent

13 members of the Norwegian standards body, Standards Norway, have left the organisation citing  issues relating to the OOXML standards process debacle. Reasons are as follows:

* The administration of Standard Norway trust 37 identical letters from Microsoft partners more than their own technical committee.
* The process within Standard Norway has been unpredictable and the administration has changed the rules along the way.
* Standard Norway and ISO have committed a series of violations of their own rules and other irregularities in the OOXML process.

So the fallout from the OOXML ISO process is starting to build. First there was an appeal from 4 participating countries, the stalled appeals process thereafter, the CONSEGI declaration and now this. If Microsoft sought to sow division, they’ve done a great job – pity the ISO can’t see further than their local Microsoft representative.

Quebec government sued over purchase of Microsoft software

Facil ( Quebec’s open source association ) is suing the local provincial government for purchasing Microsoft software without following government guidelines which requires government organisations to stimulate competition and look for alternatives. They indicate that Quebec has refused to look at alternative bids from open source vendors – apparently they’re spending more than $80million per year on Vista alone!!! Now they may not be a 3rd world country but surely that money can be put to better use? But when you look at world wide usage of open source and free software, North America is woefully behind.

EU and US coming to disagreement over open standards definition

The EU Commission announced on June 25 that EIF/2.0 (The European Interoperability Framework which defines the rules for software used in e-Government) will hold the line as regards patents on standards. This means that patents will not be tolerated as part of open standards ( well duh!!! ). But apparently the Americans don’t get it or are just protecting their profiteering multinationals ( perhaps both ). The BSA and ACT, both spokesmen for American software vendors, indicate that not being allowed to impose patents on open software, will lead to ‘one business model being imposed over another” – this from companies whose own government has acknowledged the detrimental effect of patents on innovation and is currently in a process of patent reform.

These firms have claimed that EU firms need patents to survive. A recent EU-sponsored study had to go to Israel to find any companies that have patents in this area – well that puts this claim in the bin. EU companies have a thriving and advanced market for software based on open standards. Free market apparently has a different meaning in the US. Companies ( especially the big American anti-competitive ones ) need to wake up and smell the roses. There’s a worldwide shift in software design, distribution and sales, that’s happening right under your feet. Get with the program or you’ll be going the way of the dodo.

Breaking News!!! – CONSEGI Declaration: 6 nations say no to ISO/IEC

The fallout from the ISO confirmation of Microsoft’s Office Open XML Specification as a standard, continues and is starting to lead to some serious consequences. The recent conference in South/Latin America focusing on free software, drew some 2000 registrants to the IT event, many of whom were top government officials. The outcome ( and declaration ) indicates, that due to the issues surrounding the process involved with the OOXML standards confirmation, it’s likely that governments will look to create alternative standards organisations that provide more relevance to modern-day organisations and governments.

The issues mentioned were:
1. The bending of the rules to facilitate the fast track processing of DIS29500 [OOXML] remains a significant concern to us. That the ISO TMB did not deem it necessary to properly explore the substance of the appeals must, of necessity, put confidence in those institutions ability to meet our national requirements into question.
2. The overlap of subject matter with the existing ISO/IEC26300 (Open Document Format) standard remains an area of concern. Many of our countries have made substantial commitments to the use of ISO/IEC26300, not least because it was published as an ISO standard in 2006.
3. The large scale adoption of a standard for office document formats is a long and expensive exercise, with multi-year projects being undertaken in each of our countries. Many of us have dedicated significant time and resources to this effort. For example, in Brazil, the process of translation of ISO/IEC26300 into Portuguese has taken over a year.

And, the statement includes:
The issues which emerged over the past year have placed all of us at a difficult crossroads. Given the organisation’s inability to follow its own rules we are no longer confident that ISO/IEC will be capable of transforming itself into the open and vendor-neutral standards setting organisation which is such an urgent requirement. What is now clear is that we will have to, albeit reluctantly, re-evaluate our assessment of ISO/IEC, particularly in its relevance to our various national government interoperability frameworks.

So, some very strong words in the declaration. I can certainly see other countries ( including India, Singapore and other Asian countries ) joining new organisations that are not vendor-influenced ( or controlled ). When you take into consideration the non-western countries’ ( Africa, Europe to a degree and Asia ) increased use of open source software, and this new development, there is an obvious ground shift in a move away from the American commercial software vendors and Americanised standards institutions. The west only have themselves to blame. Told you so?