Latest from the Bizarre Cathedral
Microsoft declared yesterday (May 21st, 2008) that Microsoft Office 2007 SP2 would include (among others such as PDF 1.5, PDF/A and some more) built-in support for OASIS OpenDocument Format version 1.1 (finalized, submitted to ISO, supported by OpenOffice.org, Kofffice, GNOME office apps and their forks) while ISO-submitted OOXML support would wait for Office 14.
During Clinton's successful 1992 campaign James Carville hung a sign in their headquarters with the following three points:
- Change vs. more of the same
- The economy, stupid
- Don't forget health care.
He was attempting to counter Clinton's inclination to offer solutions to any and every topic he encountered. I know I have a similar tendency, and it comes into play when I attempt free software advocacy. As a result I've been working on my own version. My sign looks like this:
- Change vs. more of the same
- The data, stupid
- Don't forget the excluded.
In August 2005 Peter Quinn, now retired Chief Information Officer of Massachusetts, decided that OpenDocument was the best way to store documents with the guarantee that they would be able to be opened 10, 30, 50 years from now. For a state government, this is particularly important. He led Massachusetts toward OpenDocument and OpenOffice.org. The move, which sparked controversy and ferocious lobbying, is likely to end-up in history books (and while we’re at it, I’ll mention that history books in particular ought to be accessible 50, 100, 1000 years from now!).
I was asked by the UK Action Group of the Open Document Format Alliance to write a white paper on the technical differences between ODF and OOXML. After much agonizing, correcting, having others correct my mistakes, suggestions, changes and drafts I still have got something that may be alright to be previewed by all. The actual documents are in ftp://officeboxsystems.com/odfa_ukag both as a “PDF” and an “ODT” (Open Document Format).
The following is a transcribed version of the white paper. Although it has all the Free Software Magazine formatting constraints which means that the information is not as clearly presented, so therefore I recommend you to download the document from the above URL. It is here primary for reference purposes.
This week, I have been forced, through threat of domestic misery, to sacrifice a section of one my shelves on what I like to call my “Computer Rack”. No longer can that area be used to house a masterpiece of IT equipment that has been assembled from various cast-offs, loaded with interesting software to run exciting server programs. Instead, that section is used to perform the mundane task of storing light bulbs. Let me explain the reason why...
I had a massive argument with my brother the other day over an IT issue close to my heart. I had to be careful because he is a member of the Metropolitan Police, part of the Domestic Violence Policy Unit. To clarify, his department is responsible for the policy of policing domestic violence.
What he was saying was that he, and the entire metropolitan police force, use Microsoft Word, all the police departments and stations he deals with do as well, as do all organizations he needs to interact with outside the police including the name drop-able big-wig departments in the UK government. He said they had "standardized" on Microsoft Office formats and did not see a problem with that, nor did he see my objections.
Microsoft have published an open letter entitled "Interoperability,Choice and Open XML". I often like to think that I am neversurprised by the exaggerations, obfuscations and general untruths thatcome out of Microsoft: this letter shows their capacity of doing justthat.
Okay I admit it I am lazy. Well, I work four days a week as a developer and another two days writing. I am also good at pretending to be a father and a family man. However, in principle, in another life, in a parallel Universe, where elegance wins over brawn, I simply totally and utterly want to be lazy. When a lazy person, my hero, invented the wheel, the invention was not for the purpose of carrying heavy objects. The purpose was rather to avoid carrying heavy objects.
I have, in a past incarnation, worked with Microsoft’s Office products closely in a professional scenario. To this end, I was subscribed to an electronic newsletter then called “Woody’s Office Watch”, and now simply “Office Watch”. This is run as a newsletter for users of Microsoft’s Office Suite, but it is independant and not affiliated with Microsoft in any way. In fact, they have no problems laying into Microsoft hard when the boys in Seattle mess up and inconvenience their users.