Articles from Open Source/Standards

Open XML

By Michael Flanakin @ 2:10 PM :: 2586 Views :: Microsoft, Open Source/Standards :: Digg it!

Most probably know the outcome of the ballot Mobile-ready link to fast-track the Open XML Mobile-ready link standard thru ISO approval: it was denied. That isn't the end of it, tho. There are some important facts that should be pointed out. First off, I should explain how the voting process works. To get approved, the ballot must be approved by 2/3 "P members" and 3/4 all voting members. The Open XML ballot fell short of this on both accounts, achieving 53% P member votes and 74% all-up. The next is for the measure to go to the ballot resolution meeting in February 2008, where the members will have an opportunity to change their votes. In order to pass, 5 P members must change their vote from disapproved to approved or all 9 non-voting P members plus 2 disapprovers must all change their votes to approve it. Note that I may be 1 off on these numbers, depending on whether they round up or down in their ballots. The real challenge is meeting the 2/3 vote. The 3/4 vote is all but in-the-bag, needing 1 converter or 3 new voters.

As far as I'm concerned, achieving a 74% vote in favor of Open XML is tremendous; if for no other reason than, it's 74%!! I guess I was expecting a 2/3 vote to pass. Not sure why "P members" are so special, but I'm guessing some green-backs come into play, as they always do in these cases. I am hopeful of the future, tho. From what I saw, there were some good comments coming from both sides. The #1 being the dependence upon proprietary, legacy Microsoft file formats. I honestly didn't know this was included in the spec, but would have to say they should be removed. I feel like removing these would go a long way to making the spec feel like a community standard. Heck, I'd go as far as transferring key patents to ISO to show my interest and desire for full openness. Then again, I don't know what all would be involved with this or its implications. I'm merely looking at this from an objective standpoint. A showing of good faith would mean a lot to the opposition.

Another thing I'd do is officially change the name of the standard to Open XML, removing the "Office" moniker. I'm not sure where this came from, but I've always hated it. The name gives this assuming ownership by Microsoft, care of "Microsoft Office." This isn't what Open XML is about, so let's just remove the point of confusion.

We'll have to wait and see how things go, tho. There were comments about interop with ODF, but I don't think doc compat is necessarily something that should belong in a spec. That might depend on how intrusive it is, tho. As long as extensibility is built in, explicit compat shouldn't be necessary. Thanks to Sun's doing, ODF falls short on both of these counts Mobile-ready link, which is the main reason Open XML exists. Unfortunately, Microsoft's desire for competitiveness and consumer choice isn't shared. I've said it before and I'll say it again, the tables have turned: Microsoft wants choice Mobile-ready link, while historic open source supporters, like IBM and Sun, are pushing against the standard for commercial gain Mobile-ready link. In the long run, I don't think it'll matter. This whole ballot is about speeding up the standards process. Win or lose, the standard will ultimately go thru the entire process. The advantage to fast tracking is for consumers.


Silverlight on Linux

By Michael Flanakin @ 10:39 AM :: 1511 Views :: .NET, Development, Microsoft, Open Source/Standards, Tools/Utilities :: Digg it!
In a somewhat interesting turn of events, Microsoft has officially launched Silverlight 1.0 with support for Linux. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying I expected Linux to be left out forever, but I didn't expect it this soon. Good stuff! What I really thought was newsworthy about this, tho, wasn't that it happened, but that it happened in collaboration with Novell Mobile-ready link. Not sure if this has anything with the much-debated Microsoft-Novell deal, but I kind of doubt it. I get the impression this is more about Microsoft wanting to provide Linux support and the Mono team already having an implementation Mobile-ready link. I do wonder how long this collaboration will hold, tho. Not because of either party's interest in that collaboration, but because of the .NET support in Silverlight 1.1. If the collaboration would continue, I can see this growing and possibly even expanding into cross-platform .NET, the exact Mono was created. This wouldn't be the first time Microsoft stepped on its partners. Of course, Miguel de Icaza Mobile-ready link Syndicated feed has mentioned that he'd be happy to see Microsoft pick up .NET on Linux. I don't know how this would go over in the community, tho. Those on the Windows side looking for cross-platform solutions would love it, but those on the Linux side might see it as an anti-competitive strategy. Of course, those who do think that will most likely be the zealots who think anything coming out of Redmond is pure, unadulterated evil. Unfortunately, that would never change.

Sun Limiting ODF Capabilities?

By Michael Flanakin @ 8:09 AM :: 2344 Views :: Open Source/Standards :: Digg it!

There's a lot flying around the web about the document format debate. In one corner, we have Sun pushing Open Document Format (ODF) Mobile-ready link and in the other we have Microsoft pushing Open XML Mobile-ready link. If that wasn't enough, the de facto standard, the old binary Word DOC format, is nipping at both competitors' heels with interop demands coming from every direction. Of course, interop is more about tools than file formats, but apparently that line isn't as cleanly drawn as we might like. As you might imagine, this was a top priority for Microsoft as the Open XML format was designed, so migration between formats (at least in Office) is 100%. ODF on the other hand is a whole other story; and this sounds like more than just a tooling issue.

Sun is a key driver of the ODF specification and even oversees the committee that approves the spec. Gee, I don't see any conflict of interest there. I'm not the only one. The Open Document Foundation's Mobile-ready link founding president, Gary Edwards, recently noted that Sun is opposed to adding any features not already implemented in Open Office Mobile-ready link, the core of Sun's own  Star Office. Gee, that doesn't sound controlling. No "standard" should be limited to one single application's boundaries when so many others exist and provide a greater deal of functionality. Therein lies the key problem with ODF and the main reason Microsoft had to create Open XML: ODF doesn't support any mechanism for extensions. Maybe its creators didn't fully understand the problem they needed to solve, but I'd argue that extensibility should be an absolute must-have on any wide-reaching solution; especially a standard! This is the key differentiator between the 2 formats. Simple enough to fix, right? Apparently, not. Of course, it's looking more like Sun push-back than a technical blockage. The Foundation pushed a plug-in proposal, but without Sun's buy-in, it won't be going anywhere. According to Edwards, "Sun has successfully blocked or otherwise neutralized all efforts to improve ODF interop with Microsoft documents." Are you starting to see the pieces fit together, too?

Perhaps the best option lies within another of Edwards' comments: "What's really needed is a standards process not controlled by big vendors with big applications and big market share appetites." I couldn't agree with this more. It's obvious Sun is trying to take advantage of their position and try to wedge Microsoft out of the game. Unfortunately for them, this could backfire. As the de facto standard, anything less than full support may be detrimental to adoption. The real truth is that Sun isn't only slowing adoption with their choices, but also limiting functionality. I see this as the biggest problem with ODF and Sun's stance. However, the need for a truly independent standards body is much bigger. Until that happens, I'll have to put my support behind the more functional Open XML standard, which seems to be more focused on what end users truly need -- and not just what Microsoft thinks, which is what ODF is about. Think about it. What would you choose?


Microsoft Seeks XPS Standardization: How Many is Too Many?

By Michael Flanakin @ 7:38 AM :: 2341 Views :: Technology, Open Source/Standards :: Digg it!

Apparently, Microsoft is now pushing for its XML Paper Specification (XPS) Mobile-ready link to get standardized Mobile-ready link by Ecma International Mobile-ready link. Is it just me or has Microsoft made Ecma? Don't get me wrong, the assocation was around long before Microsoft first approached it to standardize the C# language Mobile-ready link and Common Language Infrastructure (CLI) Mobile-ready link. Heck, Ecma actually dates back to the early '60s Mobile-ready link; long before Microsoft came on the scene. I guess my point of view is in part due to what I'll call "narrow-sighted, Americanism," but that's a whole other topic for another day. Another part is probably because I'm fairly heavily focused on .NET, web development, and the standards that revolve around these areas.

I guess one thing I'm wondering is, how many standards organizations Mobile-ready link do we really need? Seriously. Off the top of my head, I know of 7 that affect the work I do: ANSI Mobile-ready link, Ecma, IEEE Mobile-ready link, IETF Mobile-ready link, ISO Mobile-ready link, OASIS Mobile-ready link, and W3C Mobile-ready link. At the time of this writing, Wikipedia lists 35 international standards organizations as well as a slew of regional and national organizations. Do we really need so many? As with most software that seems to be duplicated, I'm guessing these were each brought up on their own, individual need for standardization within their area, whether that be location- or field-based. I just can't help but think we have a bit too much redundancy. I admit, it is sometimes hard to submit to someone else's opinions about such matters as standardization, but how good is a "standard" if there are 100 of them? Of course, what good is a standard if it doesn't meet all needs? The truth is, nothing is 100%. We all know this. I'm just thinking it's probably about time we had a standard for standards bodies. I'd like to see standards bodies come to an agreement on who decides what can or can't be a standard. With that, I'd like to see some of these 7 organizations we hear about daily go away. I'm not going to say who I think should be merged with who, but someone should.

While I'm on the topic of "how many is too many," there's the obvious question of: How many standards do we really need? Bringing that home to what started this rant, XPS has one primary competitor today: Adobe's Portable Document Format (PDF) Mobile-ready link. We all know about and love to hate PDF... I'd like to stress the "love to hate" part, as PDF is the one document format I'll go out of my way to avoid. Then again, Foxit Software Mobile-ready link has made this much more bearable with its Foxit Reader Mobile-ready link and PDF Editor Mobile-ready link applications. The main benefit PDF has over other formats has been its read-only nature. You can publish a document as a PDF on the web and feel pretty safe about it not being re-published by third parties with customizations you didn't approve of. XPS has that same feel, but is much more open than PDF, which is why I like it. Of course, there's still that glaring question: What's the difference? So, what is the difference? Why do we need a second read-only document format? That's a good question...


Microsoft and Open Source

By Michael Flanakin @ 12:15 PM :: 1538 Views :: Technology, Microsoft, Open Source/Standards :: Digg it!
As a part of my never-ending backlog of interesting posts I've saved off, I finally took the time to read Jon Galloway's Mobile-ready link Syndicated feed post regarding Microsoft and open source, Why Microsoft Can't Ship Open Source Code Mobile-ready link. I have to say I whole-heartedly agree with Jon's position. As nice as it would be to dump some of the disregarded apps included in Windows (i.e. Notepad and Paint) for their open source counterparts (i.e. Notepad2 and Paint.NET), it's just not feasible for Microsoft. I can't blame them at all. If you've ever wondered why Microsoft doesn't include open source software in Windows, this is a great place to start. I imagine there's more to the story than this, but the position Jon explains is very logical. Well-put, Jon.

Ubuntu vs. Windows (c/o Information Week)

By Michael Flanakin @ 10:26 AM :: 1579 Views :: Technology, Open Source/Standards :: Digg it!

Information Week Mobile-ready link Syndicated feed did a quick run-down Mobile-ready link of the latest versions of Windows Mobile-ready link and Ubuntu Mobile-ready link. Here's a summary of that comparison for those interested...

Feature Ubuntu Windows Why?
Installation

X

Ubuntu has a slight edge here, if only because it can be run directly from the CD and tried out non-destructively.
Hardware, PnP

X

On the whole, Windows still deals with hardware more elegantly and efficiently than Ubuntu.
Software Installation

X

X

It's a tie. Both operating systems show much the same centralization and efficiency in dealing with applications, protocols, and programs.
Networking/Web Browsing/Email

X

Windows, but only by a hair. Windows has a bit of an edge in terms of sharing network connections -- but both platforms have possible mail migration complexities.
Word Processing

X

Ubuntu, because it comes with OpenOffice -- although that can be added to Windows easily enough.
Indexing/Search

X

Vista, for having its search function integrated from the ground up through the shell and the OS.
Multimedia

X

X

Another tie -- the functionality of the default multimedia programs on both platforms is about even.
Image Editing/Management

X

X

Again, 50-50 -- Vista for its Picture Gallery; Ubuntu for having a better native image editor than Paint.
Backup/Restore

X

X

A tie, but only because both platforms fall short in some ways. Vista's roster of backup features aren't available in every SKU of the product; Ubuntu doesn't have anything like Vista's shadow copy system and its user-friendly backup tools are pretty rudimentary.
Winner

X

X

A tie, but only because both platforms fall short in some ways. Vista's roster of backup features aren't available in every SKU of the product; Ubuntu doesn't have anything like Vista's shadow copy system and its user-friendly backup tools are pretty rudimentary.
The Last Word Ubuntu's best strength is handling the ordinary task-based day-to-day stuff. Vista has a level of completeness and polish that some people find it hard to do without.

Ok, so I see there's a tie, but looking thru the evaluation, which I think is definitely good and very worthwhile for those who have the Linux vs. Windows questions. Heck, a co-worker just professed to me how great he thought Ubuntu was a few days ago. I admit it... I'm curious. It's been a while since I've played with Linux and it might be time to give it a shot, again. But, to touch on the comparison, if you consider score, this is 6-to-7 in Windows' favor. Putting weights in, I'd even go as far as to say the score comes down to 15-to-24 in Windows' favor, again. Admittedly, my weights can be argued, but here they are in order of decreasing importance (1-5, 5 being the most important): hardware (5), networking/web/email (5), word processing (4), search (4), multimedia (3), image editing/management (3), software (2), backup/restore (2), installation (1). I won't get into the reason I chose these weights, but can.

Of course, I have to mention a few comments. First off, the fact that you can run Ubuntu from a CD is just phenominal, in my book. Granted, I consider this somewhat of a novelty, but I love it. Windows is a long way from doing this, as far as I can tell. Aside from that, however, the install experience is very nice for Windows Vista. No real complaints here.

Next, if we're including Open Office, I'd have to include Microsoft Office. Sure, it's not part of the install, but if I'm going to have an office suite, it's gonna be the mac-daddy office suite, which is hands-down better than Open Office. Not even a competition; especially, when considering Office 2007. In the same breath, I have to express my angst for some of the default apps, like Notepad, WordPad, and Paint. You're kidding, right? These apps just plain suck. We need an Office Express in Windows... to some extent.

I have to touch on search next. I think this point is understated. The ground-up search in Vista makes me question why I've never had it before. Now, I'm looking for search everywhere and just not finding it. I see so many opportunities for the level of ease I get with Windows Desktop Search on Windows Vista.

When it comes down to it, after reading thru this comparison, I still think Windows is the hands-down winner. Tie, schmie. I was surprised to see some of Ubuntu's features and capabilities, tho, so don't take that as me dismissing the OS. I think both have their high and low points, but if I'm choosing an OS, it's Windows Vista and Office 2007 all the way.


Microsoft Pushing for Choice in Document Formats

By Michael Flanakin @ 9:33 AM :: 2774 Views :: Technology, Open Source/Standards :: Digg it!
Slashdotters never cease to surprise me. The imbeciles are taking Microsoft's move to stop ODF-only madates Mobile-ready link as a move against open standards. In fact, it's the exact opposite. Roles have been reversed in the ODF v. OpenXML war Mobile-ready link. The typical open source community is pushing for a one size fits all answer, when they know their solution doesn't support everyone, while Microsoft is pushing for choice. Completely backwards, I know, but people don't seem to see this. All they see is Microsoft opposing an "open standard." I only have one comment for that, tho: OpenXML is an open standard Mobile-ready link. So, by saying Microsoft is opposing open standards is completely wrong.

FoxPro Moves On

By Michael Flanakin @ 4:27 PM :: 1476 Views :: Technology, Microsoft, Open Source/Standards :: Digg it!
I have to say that this is something I didn't see coming. Microsoft is planning to stop officially supporting FoxPro and migrate the project over to the open source community Mobile-ready link. I'm very happy to see this happening. If you ask me, this should've been the approach for VB classic, but I can partially see the reasoning behind not doing that. Either way, this is a bold move for the company everyone loves to hate. Official support will be cutting back in 2010 and finally dropping the line in 2015. That's 8 years to get support from Microsoft. Of course, just because Microsoft isn't supporting it doesn't mean it won't thrive in the community. I'm sure partners will pick up that ball and provide an excellent level of support for both the open source project and as services to those in need. Kudos to Microsoft on this one. I'm glad to see such a move.

My Start++ Startlets

By Michael Flanakin @ 8:36 AM :: 2136 Views :: .NET, Technology, Open Source/Standards :: Digg it!

I love me some Start++ Mobile-ready link -- thanks to Brandon Paddock Mobile-ready link! It's a tool I've been wanting for quite a while Mobile-ready link. Now that I have it, I had to add my favorite keywords to it. The built in keywords are a great starter, but there are 4 more I wanted: .NET class library on MSDN, IMDB, TV.com, and Netflix. I created two startlets for this so others can use them: MSDN startlet and TV/Movie startlet.

I started with Brandon's MSDN startlet and added the ability to go directly to .NET base class library classes and class members. For instance, if you type, dn system.web.ui.control, you'll go directly to the Control class' documentation page on MSDN. I tried to set it up with an alias of net, but that conflicted with another program. I don't use MSDN's search, but I left it in for good measure. I thought about adding other startlets for .NET, but decided not to since I just use Live Search to find everything.

The tv/movie startlet allows you to search for tv shows and/or movies on your my favorite sites. It's just as easy as imdb 300, tv pretender, or nf king kong. These are pretty simple, but I get a lot of mileage off of them Mobile-ready link.


ODF Debate

By Michael Flanakin @ 11:40 AM :: 2491 Views :: Technology, Microsoft, Open Source/Standards :: Digg it!
iTWire Mobile-ready link pulls together its less-than-factual reporting skills together to get some attention by posting an article claiming standardization of the Open Document Format (ODF) is a threat to Microsoft Mobile-ready link -- because this is the only one you can find on the web nowadays :-P First, off, I have a big problem with ODF and the stance of its backers: they are professing the need for one and only one standard in this area when they know the format doesn't fit all circumstances. For instance, ODF does not have a way to embed custom data, if I remember correctly. This is one of the [many] big advantages to Open XML, which is used in Office 2007. The article goes on to claim that Open XML is a proprietary format, which is absolutely not true. In fact, Open XML is an Ecma Mobile-ready link standard Mobile-ready link. Yes, that's an international standards body; the same standards body that standardized C# and the .NET Common Language Infrastructure (CLI) Mobile-ready link. The last thing I'm going to say about this [for now] is that Microsoft acknowledges the fact that Open XML may not fit every situation and is actually promoting choice here. Sound familiar? This is what the open source community has been saying for years. Now, it seems the tables have turned. Microsoft is suggesting choice is good and typical open source backers are saying you, the consumer, should have no choice. As proof of Microsoft's dedication to choice, there's an add-in to add ODF support to Word Mobile-ready link. When has the ODF community done anything to support consumer choice?