Monday, 17 December 2007

Drive-by voting

Since the Swedish stance in favour of OOXML, I've had no particularly exciting moments in the related committee of the Swedish Standards Institute (SIS). Because the decision was withdrawn in the media chaos that followed, Sweden will not be able to vote on Microsoft's ECMA's proposal, or go to the Ballot Resolution Meeting (BRM) in February. It'll be interesting to see how the story ends...

Meanwhile, I thought I'd remind you of how committed Microsoft's partners are to actual standardisation work, as opposed to, hmm, something else. See my table below, listing organisations ordered by degree of participation. (You can also find out the date of joining for some members. Note that many of them have decided not to be part of the committee in 2008.)

Oh, and IAMCP has sued SIS in order to make sure that "IAMCP and its members can continue to work with standards in a reliable manner".

What a sandbox.

Organisation5 Jun15 Jun14 Aug16 Aug1VOTE 27 Aug26 Sep26 Nov217 Dec
Riksarkivet (chair)xxx-NOxxx
Illuminet AB--xxNOxxx
IAMCP Sweden Chapter4xx--YESx--
Sun Microsystems AB-x--NOx-x
EPiServer ABxxx-YES---
HumanData Inventus ABx-x-YES---
iBizkit AB----YESx-x
Diamo AB-x--YES---
Kungliga Biblioteket5----NO-x-
Exor AB----YESx--
Formpipe Software Linköping AB----YESx--
FS System AB----YESx--
International Development Europe----YESx--
SourceTech AB----YESx--
Camako Data AB----YES---
Connecta AB----YES---
Emric AB----YES---
Fishbone Systems AB----YES---
Google Sweden----NO---
IT-Vision AB----YES---
KnowIT Stockholm----YES---
Modul 1----YES---
Nordic Station AB----YES---
Solid Park AB----YES---
TietoEnator Digital Innovations----YES---
ReadSoft AB----N/A3---
Strand Interconnect----N/A3---


1 This meeting was only for editorial purposes.
2 This meeting was organized specifically to discuss coordination between various working groups in SiS.
3 Left before the OOXML vote.
4 The person in question is listed to be representing "VeBe IT-Management AB" during the first three meetings (including one absence).
5 Is a member of other committees as well.
6 Became a member after the OOXML vote.

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

FFII annual meeting in Brussels

I was kept rather busy this weekend, preparing and helping to execute the annual meeting of the FFII. Our President was re-elected, there are some new colleagues in the board, and so on. Software patents, watch out!

Where was I? Oh right, 30 geeks came to Brussels from all over Europe. Like at any good annual meeting, there was some flaming. And yes, they did try to ignore the schedule limitations I had set out in the agenda. Next time, there'll be no mercy... ;-)

While I just got tons of new work in my hands (we also had a long board meeting on Sunday), in the end I think it was a very stimulating (but exhausting) experience. We also had many speeches and other events. (I couldn't participate in most of Friday's events though, but at least I was in time for the beer... :-))

On Monday, I for once had some time to look around in the city (well, at least to see what to eat and drink near The Bourse, including some well-hid stuff along Beenhouwersstraat), and make a short stop to talk to some members. Then I went home again. Now just to catch up with all the paperwork...

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Strange bookshops

(For the record, the following does not relate to anything in the real world - not IT, not operating systems, and it's not even remotely related to installation procedures for software. The metaphors are completely fair and accurate, thus they do not necessarily reflect my personal opinion; I'm not making any subjective statements or suggestions.)

Shop 1

D: Hi Gene, can you get a book for me, please?
G: Hold on.

[Ten minutes later.]

G: Yes?
D: Oh, you know my style. You take a pick.
G: Moment...

[One minute later.]

G: OK. Maybe the one over there?
D: Great. I take it then.
G: Actually, the pages are blank. I need to fill them in first.
D: Uhhhhh, OK...

[One hour later.]

G: Here you are.
D: There's only one chapter here!
G: Oh, I'm sorry, I got confused. Try the other one in the shelf, it's a mass-produced copy.
D: Why didn't you just tell me?!
G: You didn't ask!

Shop 2

D: Uberto! Hi, I need the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
U: I'm sorry, I'm not in the mood.
D: I don't understand what you're saying, but I really need it.
U: OK, whatever.


U: Yeah, well, you know, I was getting some other books for you right now, and I would just mix everything up.
D: So do it after that!
U: I don't know what you mean.
D: ...


D: Are you getting the book or not?
U: Oh, I just finished with the other stuff. Sure thing, man.

Shop 3

D: Good morning, Winnie. How do I go about finding some books?
W: I have no idea.
D: What?!
W: Find them yourself!
D: Hmpf!

[Some time later...]

D: Here it is - YOU & NICK'S HATERS Handbook.
W: Oh, I like that one! It'll be 50 Euros.
D: What?!
W: Per year.
D: ...
W: Well?
D: I could get a very similar book for free elsewhere.
W: No, no, they're no good. You must use this one.
D: Mrrff... Bah, I don't care anymore, it's not me who'd pay anyway...
W: Good. But any book can be dangerous, you know? Are you sure you want it?
D: I just paid for it!
W: Right. Here's a few pages of rules about using this book.
D: OK, but I know nothing about this. Why are you showing this to me NOW? I already gave you some money, just let me read it!
W: I'm sorry, you need to study this thing closely before reading the book.
D: There, I put it in the tr... I mean, I got it.
W: Right. In which room do you want to read it? In the kitchen, the living room, the bedroom...?
D: Are you nuts?!
W: What do you mean?
D: Just. Give. Me. The. Book.
W: I guess you're OK with having it in the living room then?
W: Fine. Do you want some bookmarks with it?
D: NO!!
W: Here you go. See you soon!

Friday, 9 November 2007

NX - Linux from a distance

I finally got around to testing NX (remote desktop, see "background" below) for Linux.

After doing a "stress-test" from an "impressive" distance of 5 kilometres, I'd say it's quite responsive, and otherwise appears to work as advertised. I especially like the resume functionality (suspend one or more login sessions), and resize-on-demand (i.e. toggling full-screen mode, or changing the resolution with the desktop adjusting).

As for the rest (sound etc.), it appears to behave properly, but then again, I've only just started using this. Graphically intense (e.g. 3D) applications don't work smoothly - no surprise there - on the other hand, neither does glxgears (20 FPS). Maybe by default, no frames are skipped.


Getting the (freeware) NX system up and running roughly means to:
  • Install nxclient, nxnode and nxserver on the host.
  • Generate DSA public key, and private key (without a passphrase) for the "nx" user.
  • Install nxclient on other machines; use the private key to authenticate as "nx", then use your login for the host.
Apparently it's a little more complicated than this, but for instance you can use an existing SSH server configuration which allows only public key authentication (hint, hint). That would only get you past the first security layer, though (the "nx" user), or I didn't see how to specify the user's private key in the client. A workaround I use is to use NX's own password database for authenticating users. (I could live with that, but is there a way to avoid this duplication? I guess it could also be a problem with other authentication methods.)

NoMachine's documentation covers many things, so I'm not sure what else to address for now. However, I could mention that - lacking suitable free software packages - I've tried instead to compile some stuff (see the repository) into an NX client on Debian stable/etch (on a G4 machine). After working around a configuration bug, I seem to be able to login and so on, but get stuck on a "Launching session" dialog. If I get this to work, I should be presenting some documentation soon after.


NX is a technology for remote access (similar to that of rdesktop) to Linux or Solaris systems. It's based on SSH and X, but offers significant improvements in terms of security (as compared to (e.g.) some VNC solutions) as well as latency and bandwidth requirements (ssh -X, anyone?).

Sadly, the official package from NoMachine is freeware, but there doesn't seem to be a free software equivalent yet. While - strictly speaking - there is such code available for building a server or a client, only some server code (FreeNX) seems to be reasonably up to speed so far (but I hope this will change soon).

GNOME oddities?

I've hit on some bugs when running GNOME on the host, but it could be unrelated to NX. More specifically, I've experienced that gnome-terminal can get confused and open a terminal on the host; trying to logout in XFCE can close the remote GNOME session... :-) Given that, I try not to login with GNOME-ish stuff when it's already running on the host. (Instead, I use something like fluxbox, but that now fails to logout at all in an NX session, weird...)

Friday, 2 November 2007

Sweden outsources its coin production

DN (newspaper in Swedish) writes that domestic AB Myntverket has lost to the competition - and their owner - Rahapaja OY in Finland; the Riksbank (Swedish national bank) are required by law to make public inquiries to see which organizations are suited for the coin production, and setup contracts for some years at a time. Apparently AB Myntverket wasn't seen as conforming to requirements of an ISO-compliant environmental policy.

Naturally, the matter is disputed. Still, Agneta Rönström of The Riksbank doesn't expect an appeal. After all, Sweden has only been in this business for 1012 years straight. Who said there couldn't be more "drama" before switching to the Euro here? :-)

Thursday, 1 November 2007

ISO for breakfast, OSI for lunch, EU for dinner, FLOSS for dessert?

(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.)

Sunday, 28 October 2007

Deceiving checksums

Ever tried to copy a file or burn a CD, only to find out that the copy seems just fine, but not according to the checksum? Sometimes it's worth digging a bit deeper: (or so it seems to me as a geek)
ubuntu@ubuntu:/mnt/hda2/ISO$ cat md5sum.txt
d2334dbba7313e9abc8c7c072d2af09c ubuntu-7.10-desktop-i386.iso
ubuntu@ubuntu:/mnt/hda2/ISO$ dd if=/dev/hdd | md5sum
1425008+0 records in
1425008+0 records out
729604096 bytes (730 MB) copied, 165.264 seconds, 4.4 MB/s
04af936c32bf2a26062a70360dd447cb -
Game, set, and ... no match. (For the record, "md5sum /dev/hdd" wouldn't illustrate my point here.) Let's see what we have:
ubuntu@ubuntu:/mnt/hda2/ISO$ ls -l *.iso
-rw-r--r-- 1 ubuntu ubuntu 729608192 2007-10-28 13:05 ubuntu-7.10-desktop-i386.iso
Ah, 4096 bytes missing; now, with some dd / md5sum use it turns out that the preceding part was a perfect copy, as expected. Well, I'm using that live CD to blog about it while installing; it finished already, so I'm assuming it worked out... :-)

(Next time I intend to stick to K3b, as I'm guessing it copes with these problems (integrated verification process) or never creates them in the first place. It wasn't available on the live-CD, though.)

An older story is when I tried a poor man's backup of a 40 GB drive:
$ nc -l -p 5678 > hda # host waits for data
# nc 5678 < /dev/hda # start backup on a Linux live-CD
This worked fine, or so it seemed. I checksummed different parts of the original and the copy (binary-search style), and narrowed down an inconsistent piece. Finally I must have noticed that this chunk got different checksums at two different times. While transmission errors are theoretically possible, I wouldn't normally expect them with both computers in the same room and on the same switch.

Running the live-CD, I was naively assuming all partitions to be copied were mounted read-only, so there could be no change on the disk either. Maybe the hardware was crashing on me...?

Nope. Evidently:
# swapoff -a
would have helped before copying the whole disk. Sigh! ;-)

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Microsoft Linux? (Soon in more versions than Vista!)

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.)

Sunday, 14 October 2007

Small victory for web accessibility

The Register reports that a California judge has allowed a class action response against for discrimination against blind users. The website was claimed to be unusable with screen readers, which could be in violation of federal and state laws.

While changes have been made to the site recently, the matter can now be pursued from a national perspective - on behalf of all legally blind US individuals who tried to access the site - and similarly for California with local regulations.

Hopefully this will bring us closer to WAI compliance, which would help along the full potential of the World Wide Web. Either way, I for one will celebrate if this turns out to kill unusable web services, such as Flash sites...

Monday, 1 October 2007

Microsoft, you are a winner!

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

Saturday, 22 September 2007

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...

Thursday, 13 September 2007

EU and terrorism

According to Reuters, EU Justice and Security Commissioner Franco Frattini proposes to "prevent people from using or searching dangerous words like bomb, kill, genocide or terrorism". I haven't yet seen any updates yet, so I'm not sure how this is progressing.

Nevertheless, this is probably my favourite of EU initiatives, only in direct competition with the "take off your tie"-proposal. You see, this one has a certain elegant characteristic; once enforced, any online material on the subject will become unavailable instantly, through magic! Clearly, the journalists - I mean terrorists - need to be stopped now, before they write something that could get the Commission - I mean population - to fear for its welfare.

Out of curiosity, I'd love a more detailed report on how recent EU proposals have improved overall security. I feel some politicians are not getting the credit they deserve; it doesn't make any sense, does it?

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Black sheep

Interesting what happens during one's vacation / work abroad. Miguel de Icaza, founder of GNOME and Mono, writes that "OOXML is a superb standard", even implying that it's better than OpenDocument. With all due respect to his work on GNOME (and Mono, though the conditions for such a project is another discussion), I perceive a sort of dark religious tone over this.

In support of OOXML as a second standard, he goes on to say that "it is always better to have two implementations and then standardize than trying to standardize a single implementation". I'll try to interpret this; it seems to me he's actually suggesting e.g. OpenDocument to be just a description of how Open Office works, and OOXML of Office (but no other products). I must say that this is not the best way to demonstrate an understanding of the standardization process.

On the other hand, I'd agree that Microsoft is in fact trying to design a format based on (only) their own product (they even made some extra effort to include Microsoft Office bugs in OOXML). However, something about Miguel implying that this backwards approach would be valid in the 21st century, doesn't quite feel right.

Basically, I think his first post in the thread can be summarized subjectively as follows:
  • People who think OOXML has fundamental problems are crazy, there is absolutely no merit to their criticism. I won't bother to tell you why, though, because they're crazy. Oh, and it's the best proposal there is, believe me!
  • I know there is OpenDocument, but one more standard can't hurt. Maybe everyone should have their own standard? (Hm, you say this removes the whole point of standards? No way, chill out!)
  • Patents [regarding Moonlight] is not a problem, just get all your software from Novell! (To be fair, though, this part of the response could also be seen as not meaning anything at all.)
Frankly, I'm getting somewhat bored due to the low quality of (most?) pro-OOXML arguments. Please, Miguel, try something better.

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Microsoft spin on OOXML

It's so easy to poke fun at Microsoft's futile attempts of PR spin, but I'll try to restrain myself to a few examples.

In their press release on the preliminary OOXML rejection, it is suggested that there is "strong global support" for OOXML. Tom Robertson is quoted as pointing out the "high quality of the Open XML format" and that "the results from this preliminary ballot are very encouraging".

Therefore, I'm confident that the 100+ comments from many countries are just minor problems (where such numbers were not reached, surely this is completely unrelated to e.g. Microsoft's vote buying), and that Tom is more than happy to deal with at least six more months of desperation and bad press. Well, to each his own. ;-)

Stephen McGibbon from Microsoft goes on to write in his blog that "it is very interesting to note that there is clearly more support for OpenXML already than there was for ODF", referring to a graph that shows no opposition of ODF! Did I miss something here...?

He also adds many nicely coloured charts that clearly show how committees with less or no expertise (i.e. those of non-P countries, especially the ones who have never participated before) tend to follow Microsoft's lead to a greater extent (surprise!).

Overall, I guess I could only be glad to see this fine commitment to honesty. Bravo, Microsoft! :-)

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Microsoft vs. FFII : 1-1 on OOXML

ISO has just confirmed that no criteria for approval of OOXML has yet been fulfilled. They have also announced that a Ballot Resolution Meeting will be held in February 2008 in order to (possibly) get another result.

Update 5 Sept 11:20: FFII just published a press release.

Monday, 3 September 2007

OOXML, preliminary ISO vote results

ISO is expected to announce the vote results today. Meanwhile, here is a map showing inofficial estimations (may be incomplete relative to the figures here). According to the voting rules there needs to be a qualified majority (2/3) of all participating members that vote. Of those, currently there seems to be 12+ NO votes, and 6+ abstenstions, leaving at the most 41-12-6=23 YES votes. 23+12=35, and 23 / 35 is 65.7%.

If these figures are correct, it seems that OOXML is not approved at this time. However, the possibility of involving a so called Ballot Resolution Meeting (BRM) has been mentioned. Holding a BRM could mean some NO votes become YES votes, when underlying concerns are addressed. This could mean the process continues for several months - more on this later if so.

Update 4 Sept 14:25: more detailed reports confirm OOXML has not received support on any criteria. 73.91% of the votes of the participating members and 51.61 53.13% of all votes approve of OOXML. 3/4 and 2/3 majorities, respectively, are necessary. At the time of writing, ISO is yet to announce the official results, or any indications on whether a BRM will be held or not. At this point, my feeling is that (while gaining approval later is theoretically possible) holding one would be less than constructive use of their time.

(Sweden is not listed in the table of votes, since they decided to withdraw their decision completely. "Abstention" here means the respective member body has submitted their decision to abstain.)

Friday, 31 August 2007

Linux Beer Hike

I will be present at the Linux Beer Hike on 2-9 September in Crete, also enclosing an FFII board meeting on 7-8 September. Time for me to finish writing the minu... I mean the agenda. Will see if I can get some pictures up here next week.

SiS confirms: Sweden abstains from voting on OOXML

I just received confirmation from SiS that Sweden will not vote on OOXML. This is because scheduling a new meeting on such short notice (less than three weeks) would have required unanimous approval, and this was not reached in the working group. Therefore, a new vote is not possible.

Update 17:05: SiS has issued a press release (Swedish).

Thursday, 30 August 2007

SiS retracts its OOXML decision!

SiS just published a press release saying that the decision on Monday is annulled, and Sweden will likely abstain from voting on OOXML, due to procedural issues. More info as soon as I've catched up.

Update 21:15: partial translation: (may contain mistranslated terms)

Office Open XML - SiS invalidates the vote
The Swedish working group of SiS, Swedish Standards Institute, Document description languages, SIS/TK 321/AG 17, decided on 27 August 2007 at a vote to vote for making Office Open XML an ISO standard. Today the board of SiS decided to invalidate the vote.

The motive of the decision of the board is that SiS has information suggesting that one of the members in the working group has participated in the vote with more than one vote. [...]
Update 21:25: the head of SiS says in IDG that this had nothing to do with the massive criticism, only a procedural matter. I say no more... ;-)

Microsoft acknowledged OOXML problems

On 15 June, at one of the first meetings of the SiS OOXML working group, presentations were held about ODF and OOXML, respectively. (The OOXML one was one of those "black is white" shows - after seeing it you'd be tempted to believe that all the problems were a good thing.)

Anyhow, Microsoft was present and a consensus was reached that ODF and OOXML are in conflict! (I didn't participate in the particular meeting, but I learned this later.)

I was also told that Stephen McGibbon from Microsoft had mentioned that the EMF / WMF issue is going to be corrected. An e-mail I received from him confirms that he "told the SIS meeting that this is an error in the specification that will be corrected at the BRM, and that Open XML has no requirement on EMF or WMF".

So he acknowledges that this technical problem (though I wouldn't be surprised to see a denial of this categorization) needs fixing. Therefore, we must vote NO, right?

Well, SiS had apparently (un-)done some homework in time for the vote, because they then - despite criticism - no longer seemed to support the earlier assessment that technical problems must be dealt with in order to vote YES (which is how I read the JTC1 directives, section 9.8)...

Now, with 170+ comments, one would think Microsoft would have some counter-arguments, no? Well, I talked about many of the comments on 14 August, with Microsoft present. The working group was given an answer to one or two, the rest Microsoft would answer "via e-mail". Interestingly, on 16 August the same representative pointed to a stack of paper, claiming he'd been working for (only) two days with it, answering all the comments. He didn't want to share them at that time, but said he would "consider" it later.

That was the last I heard about it, until 27 August. Apparently the response had been available since 24 August on LiveLink, a SiS / ISO system for communicating documents, but the working group was not notified (this 3-day gap is not the interesting part, though). One could wonder why he didn't send the information 8 days earlier, when clearly he could do so.

On 27 August, he claimed that "final edits" had been necessary before sharing it, and (since I even asked why they didn't send a draft) I can only conclude that - according to Microsoft - a preliminary response was somehow impossible or of low value to the working group. If this is indeed their opinion, I agree wholeheartedly. They had nothing to say about most comments except "it's wrong", just like in Norway where they hijacked the decision with no actual comments. (Update 3rd September: Norway finally voted no with comments.)

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Highlights of the SiS meeting on 27 August

The SiS working group received vast amounts of comments on OOXML, from several parties that had paid the required fee of 600 SEK / 65 EUR (yep...). All of them but one also submitted a recommendation for a resolution to OOXML; 27 companies suggested a YES vote, but did not write even one sentence to justify it. 2 companies that said YES made very brief statements - just as meaningless.

9 companies said NO and (in most cases) presented conditions for approval in appropriate detail (most were at least an A4). In mid-August, we finally concluded a list of 173 suggestions, not counting some general argumentation or the fact that some comments were collapsed into one.

Now, somehow the idea was presented on Monday that this "clear majority" in favour of OOXML as-is should help us in our decision, and that it's important to look at who submitted these comments; I get the feeling that they didn't buy my foolish thought of considering the comments as such (which, as it happens, were basically non-existent on the YES-side). It was also hinted that this approach would be justified (statistically or otherwise), in comparison with e.g. the Eurovision where anyone can call in... (Lordi, anyone?)

Anyway, then there were the thoughts of "diversity" as a reason for many standards, and that "we're not ready for a single language (Esperanto)", wherefore "we aren't ready for a single standard"...

I especially liked one of the companies' presentation:
  • ECMA is good (so there)
  • The interests of the customers is important (I hinted that maybe, possibly, it's Sweden's interest that's relevant (at the very least), please forgive me)
  • There's no time to deal with technical deficiencies (so we just ignore them? Convenient!)
  • There will always be problems, no standard is perfect (this is a good thing, right?)
  • The fast-track procedure has to be safe (therefore it is, Q.E.D.?)
  • It's about taking control from Microsoft (no matter such details as Office 2007 doing something else entirely, or the patent problems, or the un-implementability of OOXML for anyone)
  • We say yes to ODF too (therefore there is no problem with adding another standard)
I think that about concludes it; most YES voters didn't bother to justify their stance or to at least suggest that even one of the 170+ proposals need to be sent to ISO.

The only interesting speech at the meeting was given by Georg Greve of Google, who held a very thorough presentation of various problems. Their position is also available as a PDF document.

NyT: "Microsoft admits SiS voting coup"

Summary from an NyT article: (roughly)
Microsoft admits that it's behind the SiS voting coup that resulted in proposing the OOXML document format as a standard.

- Mistakes have been done at our end, says Klas Hammar, Microsoft.
Klas goes on to say that this action was done by a "individual employee" and that the action "was not authorized" by Microsoft.

I think this speaks for itself...

Update 17:25: the following people from Microsoft were present at the SiS meeting on Monday:
  • Jonas Persson, technical director
  • Klas Hammar, business area director
  • Peter Centellini
I'm sure they were all "individual employees" and had no clue what happened at the meeting...

IDG: "Microsoft put pressure on partners to vote YES"

IDG just published an update on the Microsoft scandal.

Quick and dirty translation of the summary:
Microsoft offered extra 'market subsidies' to partners that participated in the Monday vote about the Open XML format. This appears from internal communication that CS has seen. 'It was badly formulated and would never have gone out' says the business area chief of the company, Klas Hammar.
Update: a partial English story is available at OS2 World.
Update 14:18: Groklaw also has a story.

Microsoft's Office coup in Sweden

On Monday, 27 August, the Swedish Standards Institute (SiS) declared its coming vote for the "Office Open XML" (OOXML) standard proposal initiated by Microsoft. All such ISO participants in this matter must vote no later than 2 September.

The working group that recommended this decision to SiS originally had 12 members, where a NO vote was very likely. However, on the meeting appeared 23 new members, most of them Microsoft partners. (Many of those became members even when the meeting was about to start.) As a result, a YES vote was enforced.

This is just a brief update to existing information available from e.g. the FFII Sweden press release and countless blogs and articles.

I was present at this meeting and just received confirmation from SiS of the voting results: (please see the FFII PR for some more details)

Vote results: 25 YES, 6 NO, 4 members absent.

New YES votes: (19 members since 23 Aug. 2007 or later)
  • Camako Data AB
  • Connecta AB
  • Cornerstone
  • Emric AB
  • Exor AB
  • Fishbone Systems AB
  • Formpipe Software
  • FS System AB
  • HP
  • iBizkit AB
  • IDE
  • IT-Vision AB
  • KnowIT
  • Modul1
  • Nordic Station AB
  • Sogeti
  • Solid Park AB
  • SourceTech
  • TietoEnator

New NO vote: (entered 23 Aug. 2007)

  • Google

Old YES votes: (6 members)

  • Diamo AB
  • EPiServer
  • HumanData
  • IAMCP Sweden Chapter
  • Microsoft
  • WM-Data Sverige AB

Old NO votes: (latest member was registered on 9 Aug. 2007)

  • Illuminet
  • Kungliga biblioteket
  • Riksarkivet (chair)
  • Sun
  • Verva
Members leaving the meeting before the vote: (all but IBM (old member) filed applications after 23 Aug. 2007)
  • Cybernetics (Microsoft Gold Partner)
  • IBM (NO)
  • Readsoft AB (Microsoft Certified Partner)
  • Strand Interconnect AB (Microsoft Gold Partner)
I have some more info on the meeting etc., I will try to publish this shortly.