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de lcaza calls OOXML a "Superb Standard" 615

Posted by kdawson
from the say-it-ain't-so-miguel dept.
you-bet-it's-not-out-of-context writes "A blogger on KDE Developer's Journal has found an interesting post by Miguel de Icaza, the founder of GNOME and Mono, in a Google group dedicated to the discussion of his blog entries. Six days ago Miguel stated that 'OOXML is a superb standard and yet, it has been FUDed so badly by its competitors that serious people believe that there is something fundamentally wrong with it.' In the same post he says that to avoid patent problems over Silverlight, when using or developing Mono's implementation (known as Moonlight), i's best to 'get/download Moonlight from Novell which will include patent coverage.'"
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de lcaza calls OOXML a "Superb Standard"

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 10, 2007 @08:09PM (#20546715)
    The developers had a conference on the Brain Slug Planet. Miguel liked it so much he decided to stay of his own free will.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 10, 2007 @08:10PM (#20546717)
    I wonder how much Microsoft paid Miguel to say this.
    • by plasticsquirrel (637166) on Monday September 10, 2007 @08:36PM (#20547011)

      I wonder how much Microsoft paid Miguel to say this.
      You're obviously new here. He's been praising Microsoft for years, every chance he gets. Pretty sad, really.
      • by jmorris42 (1458) * <jmorris@nOSPAM.beau.org> on Monday September 10, 2007 @09:02PM (#20547299)
        > He's been praising Microsoft for years, every chance he gets.

        Not only that, he has yet to encounter a Microsoft technology he didn't like so much he wanted to clone it into the Free Software world and make us all dependent on it.

        For years the joke was GNOME was cloned Microsoft internals with a goofy (vaguely MAc inspired treat the user as an idiot motif but without the consistency or polish of the Mac UI to make up for it) UI while KDE was cloned Microsoft UI with goofy Trolltech internals. Then Miguel hell head over heels in love with .NET and was all setto rewrite GNOME using that patenttrap. Thankfully saner heads have prevailed.... so far.

        The sooner we all write off Miguel and Novell the better off we will all be. Taking any code from that camp is just inviting a lawsuit. Sooner or later, BOOM!
        • by smitty_one_each (243267) * on Monday September 10, 2007 @10:12PM (#20547863) Homepage Journal
          I dunno. I figure Miguel is a smart fellow who is managing to do well for himself and support free software simultaneously.
          When the time and market is right, Redmond will push a .Net-ified version of MS Office, with obscured assemblies the run fine on Mono.
          Project vomit while you may, if it keeps gives Redmond life beyond Vesta [wikipedia.org], then Miguel may be doing us all a little favor.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by mabhatter654 (561290)
            not really, he could be spending that time moving things ahead. The technical decisions are almost worthwhile, but their entirely trying to copy microsoft. They're not Apple and Miguel isn't jobs. At best Bill Gates has maybe heard of him. Miguel is just a business wananabe, while it would be nice to get even 1% of Microsoft's yearly take, it won't happen. In the case of standards like .Net or Office he'll never get there, hell Apple has a lawsuit-provoked open license to M$ patent list and they still
        • by ajs (35943) <ajs@@@ajs...com> on Tuesday September 11, 2007 @01:08AM (#20549099) Homepage Journal

          > He's been praising Microsoft for years, every chance he gets.

          Not only that, he has yet to encounter a Microsoft technology he didn't like so much he wanted to clone it into the Free Software world and make us all dependent on it. ... Taking any code from that camp is just inviting a lawsuit. Sooner or later, BOOM!
          All that aside, OOXML may not be a horrible standard. It's probably been in the works for quite some time before we ever heard about it, and Microsoft does employ some of the brightest minds in software. The problem is that Microsoft's grubby hands at the wheel of a standard for file format will mean that their "reference implementation" (Office) will embody a set of defacto addenda to the standard, and no one will be able to produce a truly compatible implementation.

          That leaves us not far from where we are today.
           
          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by dfsmith (960400)

            ...will embody a set of defacto addenda to the standard, and no one will
            Did anyone else read that as "de-fecto addenda to the standard"?
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by uradu (10768)
            > All that aside, OOXML may not be a horrible standard.

            Perhaps, as it currently stands. The problem with buying into any MS "standards" is that they morph over time to suit their requirements, while either not including the new bits into the open standard, or publishing them much later to give themselves a head start on using the new features. That way all other users of the "standard" will forever play feature catch-up.

            In concrete terms, while it may appear that they currently exhaustively expose all ob
          • by UnknowingFool (672806) on Tuesday September 11, 2007 @10:57AM (#20553757)

            All that aside, OOXML may not be a horrible standard.

            In theory, OOXML is not a bad standard. In implementation, MS has chosen to tie OOXML to Microsoft products as close as possible. Two major criticism brought out by those who have reviewed it are that (in a standard) OOXML must replicate MS idiosyncracies to work (Spreadsheets must replicate an MS Excel date bug for dates function to work properly), and MS has chosen to write subcomponents from scratch using MS technologies instead of already accepted standards (relying on MS Math standards instead of Math XML).

      • by aichpvee (631243) on Tuesday September 11, 2007 @02:37AM (#20549521) Journal
        Quick, someone go tell miguel! Microsoft just released Microsoft Jumping Off a Bridge 1.0! He'd better go copy it before they get too big of a head start.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 10, 2007 @08:14PM (#20546757)
    You don't have to put on that Silverlight...
  • by overshoot (39700) on Monday September 10, 2007 @08:14PM (#20546765)
    Downloading from Novell comes with a Microsoft patent license?

    I'm sorry, Miguel, but this is getting weirder and weirder. You may be a sierra-hotel coder, but I'm not sure that translates into authority to make legal commitments on behalf of Microsoft.

    • by raddan (519638) on Monday September 10, 2007 @08:34PM (#20546977)
      It should be added that de Icaza is a Novell VP. So in light of the Microsoft/Novell patent agreement, I think we should all take his opinions with a dose of skepticism. That's not to disparage in any way his work in Free software, of which there are many and great, and I thank him for this. But that does not exonerate him from future badness and/or idiocy.
      • Really? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by tkrotchko (124118) * on Monday September 10, 2007 @09:12PM (#20547369) Homepage
        "It should be added that de Icaza is a Novell VP"

        And yet his blog sounds like it's written by someone very young. Consider this from his answer to a post on his site:

            "You do not have to pay anyone any money. Duh.

              Nobody said so. Either English is not your first language, or your reading
              and comprehension skills are busted.

              Miguel."

        Is that what passes for civility and adult behavior at Novell from a VP? I must say I'm a bit surprised.
  • Riiiiiiiiight.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by UncleTogie (1004853) * on Monday September 10, 2007 @08:17PM (#20546797) Homepage Journal

    ' In the same post he says that to avoid patent problems over Silverlight, when using or developing Mono's implementation (known as Moonlight), it's best to 'get/download Moonlight from Novell which will include patent coverage.'

    I'll think about getting it from Novell....as soon as MS hands over the list of "patent violations". IMHO, this is just a try to make the "If it's Novell/MS, it's legal" line of shite more palatable.

    If you're going to try to feed us a crap sandwich, do NOT tell us it's filet mignon.

    • Re:Riiiiiiiiight.... (Score:4, Informative)

      by Shados (741919) on Monday September 10, 2007 @08:23PM (#20546869)
      Well, when it comes to .NET, there is a crap ton of copyrighted and patented stuff, and Mono breaks a lot of em, and they know it. They just know Microsoft won't do anything, since they are semi-partners and all.

      C# the language is an ECMA standard (I beleive?), but from VB.NET to just about anything in .NET beyond console applications, everything is patented, copyrighted, etc (well, anything that could be), and MONO uses tons of it. No need to list em (in opposition to Windows vs Linux kernel, where its far from being as obvious).

      Now, if those patents and other intellectual property crap would stand up in court, thats another story altogether, but unlike the Windows vs Linux patent thing, these are much harder to deny.

      (note that the above doesn't change that telling people to get it from Novell is indeed FUD because no one will ever get sued for using Moonlight from someone else's than Novell. I'm just stating how this situation is different from the mostly baseless "Linux is stepping on X amount of our patents" deal)
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by kaffiene (38781)
        ECMA standards are meaningless. They'll "standardise" whatever they're paid to, and the "standards" are allowed to be patent-encumbered. It's madness calling anything they touch a "standard".
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by smilindog2000 (907665)
      Actually, having read the 6,000 page standards document, I have to admit it's well designed has has excellent.... ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!! Ok, I couldn't say that with a straight face.
  • by SkunkPussy (85271) on Monday September 10, 2007 @08:17PM (#20546799) Journal
    ...the standard is superb - superbly arrogant!
  • Nope (Score:5, Insightful)

    by christurkel (520220) on Monday September 10, 2007 @08:18PM (#20546805) Homepage Journal
    Little things like this in the spec make it less than superb:

    Table like Word95

    Only Microsoft has that information. No one else can implement this "superb" standard like MS can.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by miguel (7116)


      Little things like this in the spec make it less than superb:

      Table like Word95

      Only Microsoft has that information. No one else can implement this "superb" standard like MS can.

      I think we have all heard about this one, and the ECMA guys already know that they have to provide more information about this. I hope you will be contributing the code to OOo and AbiWord to support this tag as you seem to care about it so much (it is an optional tag that can be ignored).

      Miguel

      • Re:Nope (Score:5, Insightful)

        by MMC Monster (602931) on Monday September 10, 2007 @09:24PM (#20547467)
        But if it can be ignored, will the document lay out the same in two different products? If layout is different, why have you gained?
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          "But if it can be ignored, will the document lay out the same in two different products? If layout is different, why have you gained?"

          Are you serious?
          Browsers lay out HTML differently from one another.
          Hell, K-Office and OO.o lay out ODF differently from one another.
          Hell, frikkin plain text editors lay out ASCII text differently from one another (some use \r\n (or \n\r), others use \n, and others use \r for line-endings).

          Same goes for any data-processing format you can think of.

          These aren't print-layout form
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by ShieldWolf (20476)
        What if AbiWord or OOo implements the standard except for these tags and then they receive a file with such a tag populated?

        Do you ignore it or do you blow up?

        If you ignore it does that mean the file will look different?

        Can MS say they are more compatible to customers because they are the only ones that implement the whole standard?

        Is there anything stopping them from populating such flags when saving in Office 2017 and thus rendering a bunch of other apps useless, or weird looking (which for business users
      • Re:Nope (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Yaztromo (655250) <yaztromoNO@SPAMmac.com> on Monday September 10, 2007 @09:38PM (#20547613) Homepage Journal

        (it is an optional tag that can be ignored).

        Not if Microsoft keeps using it you can't.

        Sure, you can ignore it if it comes up in a document, but if a user with little care or knowledge about such issues loads a document up that uses such a tag in (for example) OOo and their table doesn't look like it did in Word, they're probably going to think that OOo is at fault, and may make a decision to not use the alternative software in the future (or may go around telling everyone they know that said software sucks).

        If Microsoft, the developer of the main product which generates these data files continues to use these tags, they become impossible to ignore without introducing rendering issues which will be sufficient to annoy potential users of alternative software.

        Yes, purportedly these tags are only supposed to be used by Microsoft when converting documents in older Word formats -- but how many hundreds of millions of such documents exist out there? Quite a few, which seems to guarantee that these "ignorable" tags are going to occur quite frequently, and will impose sufficient differences on document rendering if they are ignored. So unless these optional tags are fully documented, why should anyone outside of Microsoft want to adopt this standard?

        Standards aren't often perfect the first time around, but someone at Microsoft should have realized this, and should have prevented themselves from trying to fast-track this standard. The biggest problem is that there is the appearance that Microsoft was trying to pull a fast-one on the international standardization community with an incomplete, and highly imperfect standard that they wanted to rush to fruition for purely competitive (and not technical) reasons. With time and revision, OOXML may indeed be a fine standard, but as it stood at the point where they tried to ram it through the ISO, it had (and has) serious flaws.

        In one of your other posts to this thread, you mention:

        Am personally proud that Jody and Michael made Microsoft add ~650 pages or so to the spec that documented the formulas (one of the things we struggled a lot with in the Gnumeric days).

        Here you admit that you've already seen first hand how incomplete standards can affect Open Source (and really any third-party) development. You had a problem with the lack of documentation, and pressured MS for more details to get your software working correctly. So why is it that you have an issue when others want to pressure MS into either rectifying other areas lacking proper documentation, or removing them from the standard altogether, in areas that matter to them?

        Yaz.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by miguel (7116)

          (it is an optional tag that can be ignored).

          Not if Microsoft keeps using it you can't.

          Yaz, you wrote an essay and ignored the part where I said that ECMA was going to document that for the next batch of issues to resolve in the spec.

          So they know about the issue, they will write the docs for it, and integrate it into the doc.

          So basically "Your bug is being going to be fixed". Next issue.

          In addition to the above I predict it does not matter, because its a legacy setting and they are themselves trying

          • Re:Nope (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Yaztromo (655250) <yaztromoNO@SPAMmac.com> on Monday September 10, 2007 @10:26PM (#20547953) Homepage Journal

            Yaz, you wrote an essay and ignored the part where I said that ECMA was going to document that for the next batch of issues to resolve in the spec.

            I didn't ignore it at all. I'm glad this is something that the EMCA is eventually going to resolve. My comment is solely as to why it's important that it is documented, and why your statement that "it's optional" is hardly a solution. It may be optional, but it's important to implement to give users the expected level of interoperability, and this is why many people have expressed concerns about the standard as Microsoft has originally submitted it.

            So they know about the issue, they will write the docs for it, and integrate it into the doc.

            So basically "Your bug is being going to be fixed". Next issue.

            I think you and I can agree that the standardization organizations are doing a good job of ensuring that the standard is itself up-to-standard. But I can't subscribe to your opinion that nobody has any right to complain about the standard as it was submitted by Microsoft, just because it will (hopefully) eventually be fixed. I can appreciate that these faults will be fixed, but that doesn't mean that I (or anyone else) have no right to comment on its current state.

            In addition to the above I predict it does not matter, because its a legacy setting and they are themselves trying to not drag documents that contain that.

            So they say, and for now, but I've been a Microsoft watcher for more than long enough to say that I'll believe it when I see it. And "trying not to" doesn't mean "won't" -- I'd be significantly happier if Microsoft were to say "we won't use these legacy tags ever", and then kept their word (forever -- in which case they would be unnecessary to have in the standard, as I imagine nobody else is going to need to use them if MS itself isn't going to use them).

            Yaz.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mobydobius (237311)

        Little things like this in the spec make it less than superb:

        Table like Word95
        instead of tags like this, why not just ensure that OOXML is flexible enough in its format descriptions that "autoSpaceLikeWord95" and "lineWrapLikeWord6" behaviors are able to be described natively. this seems more vendor neutral, and even a sort of test that OOXML is a rich enough language.
    • http://www.xmlopen.org/ooxml-wiki/index.php/Office_Open_XML_Overview [xmlopen.org]

      Well written and critiqued from the Granddaddy of all Standards Organisations. They have no axe to grind whatsoever, now someone tell me THAT's FUD.
  • by Andrei D (965217) on Monday September 10, 2007 @08:19PM (#20546819)
    -But, why must you confront him?
    -Because, there is good in him. I've felt it. He won't turn us over to the Emperor. I can save him. I can turn him back to the good side. I have to try.
  • by AuMatar (183847) on Monday September 10, 2007 @08:20PM (#20546839)
    First Mono. Now he wants us to download stuff from a specific vendor to get patent protection. And finally he thinks a standard that has hundreds of pages of backward compatibility modes for 10 year old apps is a good standard? Is there anyone not ignoring him completely yet?
    • by Joey Vegetables (686525) on Tuesday September 11, 2007 @07:26AM (#20551079) Journal

      I'm sorry, and I do not mean to detract from his significant accomplishments, but I have to agree that this episode speaks poorly to Mr. de Icaza's credibility. The deficiencies of OOXML are severe, well-known, and unfixable. Not only is it not a "superb standard," but it is not something that could correctly be described as a "standard" at all, because no one, including Microsoft, could implement it correctly, and no one including Microsoft even claims to be able to do so. ODF, for whatever problems it might have, is implemented by and/or for all major office suites, including (via a third-party plugin) Microsoft's own, and it is a published ISO and IEC standard.

      I don't know whether Mr. de Icaza simply cannot see this, has chosen not to see this, or has not really bothered to seriously examine it before making such an authoritative pronouncement. But any of these problems speaks poorly to his credibility, and bodes poorly for his continued status as a spokesperson for the free software community. My advice to him would be to continue to write great code, but try to refrain from public comment about things he for whatever reason clearly does not understand.

  • by Analog (564) on Monday September 10, 2007 @08:22PM (#20546855)
    Miguel has been fascinated with Microsoft since long before he started writing Gnome, and that fascination shows no signs of having waned. Unfortunately, while it allows him to see the good things MS has done in a clearer way than many of those in the free software world, it also tends to give him a bit of a blind spot where some of their deficiencies are concerned.
  • by gilesjuk (604902) <giles,jones&zen,co,uk> on Monday September 10, 2007 @08:28PM (#20546925)
    Maybe the opposite is Uninformed Praise and Optimism (UPO).

    It seems he hasn't read about how you can "look but not touch" when it comes to the internal data. An expert in the Office format recently proved you could modify the xml in the new Office formats but Office would complain and not load it.

    The fact that it's XML seems to only benefit the world in one way, it compresses nicer.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 10, 2007 @08:40PM (#20547065)
    . . . here [google.com] before starting a flamefest.

    I'll paste it here to make sure those averse to clicking on links can read it too (anonymously even so you don't say I'm karma whoring):

    Hello,

    On 9/10/07, martin.schlan...@gmail.com wrote:

    > On 6 Sep., 07:37, "Miguel de Icaza" wrote:
    > > OOXML is a superb standard and yet, it has been
    > > FUDed so badly by its competitors that serious people believe that
    > > there is something fundamentally wrong with it. This is at a time when
    > > OOXML as a spec is in much better shape than any other spec on that
    > > space.

    > Michael Meeks didn't seem to think so at FOSDEM 2007.

    That is odd. Michael and I have discussed this topic extensively. He certainly would like clarification in various areas and more details in some. But Michael's criticism (or for that matter, the Novell OpenOffice team working with that spec) seems to be incredibly different than the laundry list of issues that pass as technical reviews in sites like Groklaw.

    The difference is that the Novell-based criticism is based on actually trying to implement the spec. Not reading the spec for the sake of finding holes that can be used in a political battle.

    Finally, Michael sounded incredibly positive after the ECMA meeting last month when all of their technical questions were either answered or added to the batch of things to review. I know you are going to say "The spec is not owned by ECMA", well, currently the working group that will review the ISO comments is at ECMA.

    For another view at OOXML look at what Jody Goldberg (no longer a Novell employee) has to say about OOXML and ODF from the perspective of implementing both:

    http://blogs.gnome.org/jody/2007/09/10/odf-vs-oox-asking-the-wrong-questions/ [gnome.org]

    I find it hilarious that the majority (not all) of the criticism for OOXML comes from people that do not have to write any code that interacts with OOXML. Those that know do not seem to mind (except those whose personal business is at risk because Microsoft moved away from a binary format to an
    XML format, which I also find hilarious).

    > >Will I have to suffer
    > > > the shadow of Microsoft patents over Silverlight when using or
    > > > developing Moonlight?

    > > Not as long as you get/download Moonlight from Novell which will include
    > > patent
    > > coverage.

    > You're saying two things here that really shock me. Please tell me I
    > misunderstood.

    1) You're saying that people _will_ have patent problems - i.e.

    > Moonlight "infringes" MS patents and doesn't work around them. Even
    > though Novell promised never to ship code that infringes MS patents -
    > but always avoid them one way or another.

    First of all, am not aware of such Novell promise to "never ship code that infringes MS patents". You can not make such statement because for one, the patent system is broken. Novell statements are wildly different, they are of the form "we do not believe that we infringe" and am sure they say something along the lines of "we dont plan on infringing, and we plan on removing infringing code". But I am not aware of all the promises Novell has made, and I can not comment on other parts of the organization. If you want an official answer, my personal blog on politics and poor attempts at humor is not the place to get an official answer. Contact Novell public relations for that.

    But you might be referring to the policy that we use for Mono, and I will be happy to discuss those with you. The policies are on our FAQ, so you might want to read that before you post in panic again.

    Moonlight does not have the same policy that Mono does in terms of us working around to remove infringing c
  • by overshoot (39700) on Monday September 10, 2007 @08:46PM (#20547127)
    Well, I suppose there's room for opinion on that. For instance, Jim Mason [ibiblio.org] seems to think it's a long way from prime time, just as a specification.

    Now, to put this in perspective: Jim Mason (of Oak Ridge National Laboratory) isn't on one side or the other, but has been doing document-format specifications for a looooong time -- he was, I believe, the founding chair of SC34 and had a hand in the creation of SGML. The dude knows documents, he knows standards, and when he writes

    the submitters obviously did not read -- and edit -- this submission into a consistent whole. If it were coming through the normal ISO process, I'd say it was in the state of a Working Draft and not yet ready for registration as a Committee Draft and assignment of a number
    I'm inclined to take his word for it than Miguel's.
  • by bersl2 (689221) on Monday September 10, 2007 @08:47PM (#20547141) Journal
    Some reasons why OOXML is unacceptable:

    OOXML is wholly un-XML-ish.

    It doesn't re-use existing ISO and W3C standards, whose behaviors have already been publicly vetted.

    Its licensing is still quite unacceptable, especially in its lack of clarity.

    Look, Miguel, I know you love MS and all, and I guess I can at least partially tolerate that, but keep the fellatio behind closed doors, OK? :P
  • by DreadSpoon (653424) on Monday September 10, 2007 @08:52PM (#20547191) Journal
    Read the fucking link, instead of ripping on the guy for selectively chosen comments without their supporting context and explanation.

    (a) He says OOXML is great not because the specification itself is a work of engineering genius, but because out in the Real World is easier to implement than ODF. That might not be for a good reason (OOXML is similar to existing World formats in structure, and so existing code is easily modified to use it, where ODF requires an entirely new approach and so is far harder to add to existing software), but it's certainly a different story than Miguel just blindly loving the OOXML spec.

    (b) The patent protection claim is exactly what it sounds like, except for the fact that there are NO known parents which Moonlight or Mono infringe. It's a simple of matter of, "if something comes up, we won't sue your customers." Those same companies (Microsoft and the MPEGLA group) are still totally free to sue the developers and companies behind FFMPEG, Linux, GNOME, KDE, Apache, X.org, OpenOffice.org, etc. Nothing about the protection Novell offers will increase the risk of those lawsuits - all it does is decrease the risk for people who download from them. It's a nice gesture that some suit-wearing types give a fuck about, and the rest of us are free to ignore just like we ignore the patent minefield for every other project, all of which are guaranteed to be infringing _something_.

    (c) The article submitter is a sensationalist jackass.
    • by argent (18001) <peter AT slashdo ... taronga DOT com> on Monday September 10, 2007 @09:01PM (#20547287) Homepage Journal
      OOXML is similar to existing World formats in structure, and so existing code is easily modified to use it, where ODF requires an entirely new approach and so is far harder to add to existing software

      I would rather wait another year or two for tools that implement a good spec than get MORE tools that implement Word's fundamentally broken document model. I would rather work in raw HTML 1.0 using ED than try and write anything sophisticated in a program like Word (or Pages, for that matter, which uses the same structure). Unfortunately since I work with people who use these formats, I must adapt.
  • OOXML. (Score:4, Informative)

    by miguel (7116) on Monday September 10, 2007 @09:00PM (#20547277) Homepage
    Folks,

    I made that comment on my blog because that reflects my personal opinion. You really need to obsess over something else.

    And before someone brings up the Microsoft connection, you should know that Novell official policy is to actively endorse ODF and that Novell's position on OOXML is neutral. My employer does not engage in any advocacy for or against OOXML (but folks in engineering work on OOXML support for OO.org).

    My opinions are my own, they do not represents the views of my employer.

    Now, speaking purely personally.

    I consider OOXML to be a pretty good standard all things considered, as I said back in January or February I did not agree with a lot of the criticism that was aimed at OOXML. The quality of the critique was not very high, and it so far has consisted of throwing as much mud as possible and waiting to see what sticks, and what sticks repeat it a thousand times.

    If these critiques were aimed at Linux or open source, we would be justly up in arms about the criticism being sloppy and having very little to stand on. I went into some detail back in January:

    http://tirania.org/blog/archive/2007/Jan-30.html [tirania.org]

    Some of my opinions are based on the work that I did in Gnumeric many years ago.

    Before there was any agreements between Microsoft and Novell, I was part of ECMA and when Microsoft initiated the OOXML specification process, it was me that got Novell's OpenOffice.org hackers to attend the meetings. At the time my goal was to extract as much information as possible from Microsoft because of the history we had with Gnumeric.

    Michael Meeks and Jody Goldberg were some of the guys that went and attended the ECMA meetings. From all the issues that were presented to ECMA, Novell was the second issue raiser (behind Microsoft's own QA of the spec), and it was all largely thanks to Jody's diligent review of the spec. From all the issues raised to date, on the latest status report only one issue had not been addressed (118 or 180, I can not recall anymore). Am personally proud that Jody and Michael made Microsoft add ~650 pages or so to the spec that documented the formulas (one of the things we struggled a lot with in the Gnumeric days). And all of this happened before the Novell/Microsoft agreement. Our interest at the time was: lets get the most information we can get out of this spec to be able to interop.

    So from that standpoint, I think that the folks at ECMA have done a pretty good job of addressing the issues raised by those that were implementing it.

    The specification can be criticized on various levels, from critical issues, to mild issues, and in a way the distributed effort to stop OOXML helped debug the spec and raise the issues that need to be clarified.

    There is certainly a number of critical issues that must be addressed, and it seems from every comment that Brian makes on his blog, that ECMA and Microsoft are committed to resolving those issues. I would not have noticed them, so in that regard the anti-OOXML camp has done a great job in terms of finding problems in the spec.

    But the majority of the criticism falls in other categories:

    mild, but conflated by a pedantic outrage over it ranging from OH MY GOD THEY USE A BITFIELD THAT IS JUST SO-NOT-XML (am using caps to encapsulate the outrage in an actual discussion when an acquaintance of mine lost it)

    misinformed (Stephane Rodriguez shotting himself in the foot and asking "why does it bleed?", his document is making the rounds, and I have debunked it here: http://developers.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=279895&cid=20363627 [slashdot.org] and someone else on CodeProject or in Slashdot had to explain to him with sticks and balls his mistakes).

    misrepresentation, like people claim that you must obtain a license from Microsoft to implement OOXML, that is simply not

    • Re:OOXML. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by suv4x4 (956391) on Monday September 10, 2007 @09:27PM (#20547503)
      Yes, he said this: "ODF's model of 'chartness' didn't fit well with Gnumeric. In contrast XLSX may be ugly, but it''s concepts were very familiar from XLS. We already had much of the code required to handle it."

      He didn't say it's a great standard. He said it's a great spec upon XLS serialization in XML, and hence it's easier for him to port XLS importer to XLSX importer. Is anyone even arguing about this here? If there is I never saw him/her.

      May I entertain the possibility you have difficulty understanding the fundamental difference between good spec, and a good standard?

      This, and comments like "OH MY GOD THEY USE A BITFIELD THAT IS JUST SO-NOT-XML (am using caps to encapsulate the outrage in an actual discussion when an acquaintance of mine lost it)" doesn't help your position stand up.

      When you publish your opinion, people read this opinion and you get feedback on it. If you were an average Joe, probably no one would care. You're not however, this is why people like you should put more thought into what they put out in the public than you did, and then now whine that someone "obsesses" over it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by AKAImBatman (238306)

      Jody left Novell some time ago, and today coincidentally he blogged about his opinion on OOXML and ODF, his blog post is very interesting, as he is an independent developer working now only on gnumeric and not in OOo nor being paid by Microsoft (as I know that many of you consider my opinion completely invalid and tainted):

      http://blogs.gnome.org/jody/2007/09/10/odf-vs-oox-asking-the-wrong-questions/ [gnome.org]

      Yes, very interesting. Jody says: "I did not comment on the quality of the formats. That will come up later."

    • Try #2 (Score:5, Informative)

      by AKAImBatman (238306) <akaimbatman@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Monday September 10, 2007 @09:37PM (#20547599) Homepage Journal
      (Yes, sorry. I should have used the preview button.)

      Jody left Novell some time ago, and today coincidentally he blogged about his opinion on OOXML and ODF, his blog post is very interesting, as he is an independent developer working now only on gnumeric and not in OOo nor being paid by Microsoft (as I know that many of you consider my opinion completely invalid and tainted):

      http://blogs.gnome.org/jody/2007/09/10/odf-vs-oox-asking-the-wrong-questions/ [gnome.org]

      Yes, very interesting. Jody says: "I did not comment on the quality of the formats. That will come up later."

      What did Jody actually say? That OOXML was easier to support because Gnumeric already supported the XLS format. Which does nothing to address the relative merits of having a format like OOXML standardized under the terms with which Microsoft wishes to standardize it.

      OH MY GOD THEY USE A BITFIELD THAT IS JUST SO-NOT-XML

      Oh my God, they used a bitfield to encapsulate Microsoft-proprietary extensions like VBA rather than standardizing them as well. (Proper capitalization used to represent more somber tone of retort.)

      I just do not have the energy or the time to compete with a guy whose full time job is to make sure OOXML is blocked.

      That's right. It's Microsoft's job to pay off officials, exert political pressure, and abuse due process to ensure that OOXML is forced into consumer hands before ODF catches hold.

      People claimed that 6,000 pages for 4 office applications was to big, but it comes down to 1,500 pages per application. And someone mentioned that removing the examples and changing the font size to use the same font size that the ODF spec uses the spreadsheet (or word processor, I cant remember) spec goes down to 700 pages.

      A disingenuous argument at best. The ODF format supports those same four applications, plus a bit more. 1,500 per application is huge in comparison. Even if we assume that it's 700 per application, it's STILL huge when compared to 867 for ALL applications.

      That being said, I don't mind long specifications if they are long for a good reason. Being long because ancient cruft is being supported for no real reason is not a "good" reason at all.

      ODF is predicated on the ideals of KISS, interoperability, and long-term data storage and retrieval. OOXML is predicated on the concept of converting Microsoft formats to an XML description. While the latter may be a nice goal for Microsoft, it does not conform the the former ideals required for an international standardization effort.

      I'm sorry Miguel. I've disagreed with you in the past, but I can't even begin to fathom your position in this matter.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by miguel (7116)

        OH MY GOD THEY USE A BITFIELD THAT IS JUST SO-NOT-XML


        Oh my God, they used a bitfield to encapsulate Microsoft-proprietary extensions like VBA rather than standardizing them as well. (Proper capitalization used to represent more somber tone of retort.)


        Got a reference for that? This is the first time I hear that the bit field was for encapsulating VBA and I do not see that referenced.

        Miguel
    • Re:OOXML. (Score:5, Funny)

      by suv4x4 (956391) on Monday September 10, 2007 @10:39PM (#20548057)
      So there you have it, a mouthful of personal opinions. I bet you wanted to spend your time doing something else, like making out with your girlfriend (haha, just kidding, if you actually reading my opinion on OOXML you have no girlfriend to make out with).

      Ladies and gentlemen, the Novell Vice President...
    • by Tony (765)
      OOXML has been so politicized that it is dangerous to even bring the topic up.

      And why do you suppose this is? And who started politicising it?

      Microsoft pulled out of the OASIS ODF working group during the creation of ODF. Instead of working for a standard, they decided to go their own way. As the giant in the industry, they have the clout to do so. When it seemed they didn't have a sure vote for fast-track of their own single-vendor standard, they are the ones who gamed the system, strongly urging their clo
    • OOXML could be the best thing since sliced bread, and I still wouldn't accept it. Not because I hate Microsoft; I most certainly do hate Microsoft, but I also recognize the technical contributions they've made to computing. I'd reject OOXML because Microsoft has ruined its (both OOXML's and Microsoft's own) credibility with its gaming of the standards process.

      I'll set aside for the moment the problems I see in the draft as it is. If Microsoft believed its format was good enough to be an international stan

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mgblst (80109)
      You suggest that OOXML works great for you, because you already have parts of Microsoft Office emulated in your software. How easy do you think it is to write a OOXML reader or editor from scratch? This seems to be the majority of complaints about Microsofts standard. Surely a standard should describe this process completely.
  • by IWannaBeAnAC (653701) on Monday September 10, 2007 @09:04PM (#20547313)

    I have been following the OOXML saga fairly closely; from Rob Weir's blog [robweir.com], to the NO-OOXML site [noooxml.org] (admitedly that is a rather partisan site, but I've found the technical arguments presented there generally to be both verifiable and compelling), and the Standards Blog [consortiuminfo.org], by Andy Updegrove who seems to know his stuff (which is bizarre since he is also a lawyer, but I guess he came from a parallel universe). I've also looked at sections of the spec myself, and I agree with the major technical criticisms; aside from being redundant in that there is already an ISO standard that could -- with well defined extensions -- cover everything Microsoft wants to include (ie, the backwards compatibility stuff), the OOXML document is a poorly worded draft of a 'standard' that is incomplete, inconsistent, and not ready for standardization.

    By usual ISO standards (if it hadn't been submitted on the fast-track), it would be at the stage of a 'committee draft', with at least a couple of years of serious effort into working it into something useable. This is the process that ODF, along with most other ISO standards, went though, and if OOXML makes it through without a similar amount of scrutiny, ISO will have egg on their faces.

    For Miguel to say it is a 'superb standard' means he either hasn't read it or followed the technical discussions (in which case he deserves the panning he will get for making such a clueless statement), or he really has sold out, in which case he deserves exile.

  • by I'm Don Giovanni (598558) on Monday September 10, 2007 @09:31PM (#20547529)
    I might get modded down for this, but:

    I notice that in the very same Google Groups thread, Miguel makes a post [google.com] that refers to what Gnumeric dev Jody Goldberg has to say regarding ODF and OOXML [gnome.org].

    According to Jody Goldberg's blog entry, implementing the fundamentals of OOXML took only a few days, and that implementing ODF "was significantly more difficult" than implementing OOXML. Jody also says, "ODF's model of 'chartness' didn't fit well with Gnumeric."
    Is this not contrary to ODF proponents' claim that ODF is equally suitable for all word processors and spreadsheets to implement? That it doesn't favor any particular spreadsheet implementation (i.e. OO.o) over any other? That it was built from the ground up to be app-neutral, and that this is app-neutrality is a virtue that OOXML lacks (since OOXML of course favors MS Office)? What say you to Jody Goldberg?

    Not that Novell or former-Novell employees think that OOXML is perfect. But I think Miguel has it right, for in that same Google Groups post, he writes,

    He [Novell's Michael Meeks]
    certainly would like clarification in various areas [of OOXML] and more details in
    some. But Michael's criticism (or for that matter, the Novell OpenOffice
    team working with that spec) seems to be incredibly different than the
    laundry list of issues that pass as technical reviews in sites like Groklaw.

    The difference is that the Novell-based criticism is based on actually
    trying to implement the spec. Not reading the spec for the sake of finding
    holes that can be used in a political battle.

    Finally, Michael sounded incredibly positive after the ECMA meeting last
    month when all of their technical questions were either answered or added to
    the batch of things to review. ...

    I find it hilarious that the majority (not all) of the criticism for OOXML
    comes from people that do not have to write any code that interacts with
    OOXML. Those that know do not seem to mind (except those whose personal
    business is at risk because Microsoft moved away from a binary format to an
    XML format, which I also find hilarious).


    (I'm guessing that the latter comment regarding persons whose business is at risk due to MS moving away from binary formats refers to often-quoted OOXML basher Stepen Rodriguez, who has been blasting/FUDing OOXML, but who has a business based on maintaining XL spreadheets in the old binary format.)

  • wrong use case (Score:5, Insightful)

    by m2943 (1140797) on Monday September 10, 2007 @09:51PM (#20547711)
    Microsoft's Office XML Standard is clearly bad in a number of respects: unnecessary deviation from established standards, encapsulation of binary formats, and backwards compatibility with obsolete MS Office formats. It does, however, indeed have the advantage that it's easier to import for code that's already been written to import the old binary formats. On the other hand, it's just as clearly harder to process using XML tools.

    Now, the question is: are the primary use cases for which we should design an XML office format office suite input/output routine, or are the primary use cases XML processing.

    Well, let's see: there are half a dozen office suites around: MS, Gnome, KDE, Apple, and a couple of commercial ones. Each of those needs to implement a reader/writer once. On the other hand, there are thousands of uses and implementors for information extraction and transformation of office documents.

    Seems pretty clear to me that we should optimize XML office formats for XML processing, not for the convenience of the implementors of office suites. And that, in a nutshell, is why Microsoft's office format is worse than ODF.
  • by seebs (15766) on Tuesday September 11, 2007 @12:04AM (#20548661) Homepage
    First it was Gnome, an attempt to build a desktop Just Like Windows.

    Then it was Mono. We've had slashdot stories on Miguel's pleas for Microsoft to please not constantly break compatibility to push people towards their implementation.

    Now this.

    Miguel, we care about you very much, and you need to understand that Microsoft doesn't love you. Microsoft will never feel about you the way you feel about Microsoft. Your pure heart is not enough to suddenly make Microsoft embrace any kind of genuine open standard. Microsoft has never had any goal but the ruthless elimination of any possible competition, and all you're doing is enabling the abuse.

    You need to stop, and you need to walk away. You need to get into therapy, and start thinking about what's good for you, and what's good for the people who care about you.

    Microsoft will never love you. They will not adopt open standards to make you happy. They will not try to make interoperation with you better. They will occasionally say just enough to string you along and make you write thousands of lines of ugly, bloated, crappy code in servile imitation of their unholy crap, but they will never actually care for you.

    It's not gonna happen.

    Look, face it: Bill Gates appears to be happily married. It was never meant to be. Just move on, and for the love of God, stop shipping multi-megabyte "frameworks".
  • by DrXym (126579) on Tuesday September 11, 2007 @03:33AM (#20549841)
    Compare - ODF 700 pages, OOXML 7000 pages. ODF unencumbered by legacy issues, OOXML heavily encumbered by legacy issues.

    I think it will be next to impossible for ANYONE except Microsoft to implement OOXML. Which is just the way they like it.

  • The argument as to why OOXML are good or bed, vs ODF, aside there is a matter of history to think of. Microsoft can't be 100% evil, it's just hard to hire people like that and expect them to function. So I agree we should not jump on MS for everything. But to be fair they do have a history. I worked at a company that, as a result of taking MS at their word(and poor management, which took MS at their word) they went under. I famous line uttered in the meeting some 8 months before things got bad was "Come on, Microsoft would never screw us!" This was spoken by the person we'd hired from Apple after they downsized, which seemed to have something to do with being screwed by Microsoft.

    Microsoft has a motive. That is everything. One motive has been to control file formats, to the end that it makes them money. They are motivated by profit. Microsoft is the smartest company in the world at insuring they make money. They were forced kicking and screaming into supporting HTML, no matter their public face. The last thing they need is for users to have a path to a different set of office applications. Do you really think that all this work on OOXML is intended to lose MS money AND give their office applications the kiss of death? They are smart when it comes to making money and they have a plan to make money from this, or why the big push? Something, sure as hell, stinks. It stinks big time, when they rig the ISO vote.

    But if you can see that MS has no grand plan being OOXML to hurt people I would not mind hearing it, but I am never going to think for a second that you have the slightest understanding of the cunning and tactics, nor do I think you can stoop to that level for long enough to think like they do. But give it your best shot and tell me why you think MS would just give the store away?

    I reserve the right to be completely wrong.

     

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