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Michael Meeks On ODF and OOXML 184

Posted by kdawson
from the down-with-clippy dept.
biscuitfever11 writes "ZDNet has up a great interview with Michael Meeks, the distinguished Novell engineer, who's currently deeply involved in open document format and OpenOffice.org. In the interview, Meeks takes Microsoft to task on its alternative format OOXML and argues that Microsoft should adopt ODF — but says that realistically they never will. He also mentions his favorite example to explain the benefits of open source software to a nontechnical person: the flexibility of open source would have allowed us to free ourselves from Clippy, the world's most despised paperclip, by changing a single line of code."
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Michael Meeks On ODF and OOXML

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  • Huh? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Saturday September 29, 2007 @08:47PM (#20797549)

    I have no way of proving it one way or another, but I'll say it again: I make buying decisions. I have access to two $25,000 lines of credit and one $10,000 line of credit and I make purchasing decisions for a 164 employee company (primarily related to replacing user PCs and web/database/file servers).

    So, $60,000. For 164 person company.

    We're a little over a 100 people and we spend over $500,000 a year on a single contract.

    Every time I chicken out because the simple fact is, as much as I like Apache and OOo, I won't get blamed when IIS or Office fail.

    Why would Apache "fail"?

    And why would anyone not directly involved in it even know what you're running?

    Like I said elsewhere in this thread, until I get to hire/fire the guy who makes the buying decisions, I can't really influence it all that much.

    But you said, and I quote "I make buying decisions".

    Five years ago I had a high profile account here where I supported OOS, but now that I'm in IT management, I realize that it's the non-technical executives that are really holding OSS back. It's sad, but it's true.

    Noooooo...... What is "holding OSS back" is the fact that all those companies have LARGE investments in their current systems.

    It takes a LONG time for companies to migrate from something that is working TODAY that they know how to support TODAY and that has been paid for TODAY.

    Regardless of the internal quibbling at MS or other closed corps, they're established, and that carries and awful lot of weight, as unfair as it may be.

    That depends upon what you mean by "established".

    Microsoft has a MONOPOLY. Therefore, they are going to be around for a LONG time.

    People will continue to buy from Microsoft because it is what they know and what they use and what works.

    Free software (as in speech) will be taken up by non-US governments and such. It's easier to pitch a change there when you can show $X (or whatever the local medium of exchange is) being sent to Redmond, Washington, USofA instead of into the local economy.
  • by Jimmy King (828214) on Saturday September 29, 2007 @08:53PM (#20797579) Homepage Journal
    The post you replied to made no mention of the average user customizing that stuff. He said large businesses. Most large businesses put their own images on computers with specific combinations of software and modify/skin commercial software when applicable frequently write their own tools to do things like migrate users to a new computer without losing personal data or deploy images and software. A build of open office or any other OSS app compiled with their preferred flags to configure or their preferred skin/theme on an app is well within the realm of reality at these places.

    For example, years ago when I worked for Best Buy, the techs used a fairly standard trouble ticket and inventory app (I'll be damned if I can remember the name), but it was rebranded as "STAR" by best buy and integrated with the POS software to a certain extent. I later worked at Capital One where they used the exact same application by it's normal name, but highly modified the interface to their needs (which Best Buy also almost surely did). We had a scripted tool built around some user migration tools MS provides to move user data from one computer to another. At the place I work now we use a modified Bugzilla and we're far from a large company. And as already mentioned, pretty much every large company has their own custom images for computers with software packages and versions that have been tested and verified to work together.
  • by Zombie Ryushu (803103) on Saturday September 29, 2007 @08:57PM (#20797613)
    As much as I'd love an injunction saying that MS must make its DOCX File format readable by other Office suites, and it must produce a plugin for OO.org to open it NOW. We are screwed. MS already has Office 2007 out in the wild, and I'm starting to get .docx files I can't open in OO.org. There's only one reason this was done, OO.org is so good at opening Docs it started to threaten Office. It doesn't matter if whether OOXML gets certified, its going to be up to OO.org to reverse engineer it as fast as possible or it will make everyone cry blood.

    By the way, what do you think the result will be in a year when we start seeing Samba 4 AD? MS will attack again with even harsher resolve/.
  • Re:Huh? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Acrimonymous (1164185) on Saturday September 29, 2007 @09:04PM (#20797659) Homepage Journal

    We're a little over a 100 people and we spend over $500,000 a year on a single contract.

    That's a rolling budget that I have access to without having to submit pre-approved expenditures for. It's primarily used for replacing user PCs, phones, etc, which is why I mentioned it here. I can request as much as I want, I just don't always get it. For example, we moved to SAM-FS last year for recovery and it cost us a pretty penny thanks to a subsidiary that has an assload of data, but I had to request pre-approval for the expenditure.

    Why would Apache "fail"?


    Ah, yes, the hubris of the OSS community... forgot to mention that.

    Apache can "fail" for many reasons. Your excessively technical question suggests to me that you're not very involved in the business. Regardless of why apache "fails" - be it because of some flaw in the program or because of a simple hardware failure - if apache is new apache is blamed. This is just how it is, unfair as it may be. I inherited IIS from my predecesor (who was, admittedly, clueless) and I won't risk my job switching to apache. The simple fact is that 99% of the failures in IIS can be patched or solved with a reboot and I come out the other side looking better for "fixing" the problem.

    Perverse? You betcha. But I'm not a big enough man to risk my career for a technological principle, is what it all comes down to.

    Again: when I'm the guy who's hiring for the position I'm in, we'll make some changes. Until then?

    Not a bloody chance.

    What is "holding OSS back" is the fact that all those companies have LARGE investments in their current systems.


    You'd be surprised. We deal one-on-one with a lot of businesses and I can't see too many of them running their own vertical apps. That being the case, most of them could switch to OSS/ODF with minimal effort and a moderate investment in training, they just choose not to for the same reasons I won't switch my people: if it goes wrong, I take the blame from higher-ups and I'm the one who's out of a job.

  • by Ajehals (947354) <a.halsall@pirateparty.org.uk> on Saturday September 29, 2007 @09:10PM (#20797685) Homepage Journal

    Hell, I'll better pay for a closed source solution in that case.
    That's only true of your propriety software does what the open source software could potentially do.

    The whole kernel hacking grandma is a misnomer when it comes to company's, even small ones, mainly because they either have access to technical experience, or they aren't getting even close to the most out of their IT systems (FOSS or Proprietary).

    You have small organisations that tend to use stuff "out of the box", which basically means they don't. nor have the expertise to, use the more useful features within the software they already own. Things like Windows Update Server, Remote Installation Services, Active Directory, Print Servers, IIS, it all gets ignored, at best you might have a file server and a load of desktops. So in that instance they would benefit from some IT expertise regardless of whether they are using FOSS or not *and* if they need to grab someone with IT experience anyway then they could replace windows with an open OS and see many benefits, without modifying a single piece of code.

    These small organisations wouldn't even consider looking at bespoke proprietary software, and the normal COTS products wont be perfect for them, so its not like they lose anything moving to OSS, and they can gain rather a huge amount, not to mention the fact that many small (as in cheap enough for SME's) software packages from less well known vendors are not exactly very good to begin with, all those crappy PHP CMS's et al you see in the OSS world also exist in proprietary land, except there you need to pay for them, and you cant fix them yourself.

    So how do you get the benefits of a working complete, comprehensive secure and stable system, whilst still having a large amount of choice *and* the ability to get modifications made if you wish (and at a more reasonable price than having something custom made/faster than having a vendor provide a patch)? Easy use OSS software. It gives choice, doesn't stop you using proprietary software where it is best, doesn't lock you in and best of all doesn't inhibit growth due to licensing costs, and scalability issues.

    If you do switch, don't do it everywhere at once if you don't want to (don't do some bits at all if you prefer), a gradual transition is possible, and probably easier. That leaves you with a choice. Oh and get someone to do it for you or with you, (that goes for an OSS or a MS based system, IT systems can make such a huge difference to a company that it is worthwhile contacting your local IT people, or even better a local college and trying to get someone to help you out. Any small business that goes down the 100% MS route will find itself without any *viable* options at all a short way down the road.

    Having said all the above I should point out that I would find it extremely difficult to put myself into a non IT literate company owners shoes and figure out what I would see as best, I would guess choice stability, reliability, scalability, security etc.. would be good, but sometimes you just want to be able to point out you spent X thousands on a new IT system over lunch, and make your friends jealous.
  • Re:Huh? x2 (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ozmanjusri (601766) <aussie_bob@@@hotmail...com> on Saturday September 29, 2007 @10:49PM (#20798205) Journal
    If the network card goes down, then "apache fails" as far as 125 people are concerned and if I'm the guy who suggested we use apache, it's my fault. I'm not dissing apache, I'm just pointing out the fact that I'm the guy who will get blamed if it's not accesible

    If you're not competent to set up fallover support on a webserver so it'll cope with a dying hardware component, it is your fault, and you should be blamed if it's not "accesible"[sic].

    The picture I'm getting here is that incompetent admins LIKE Microsoft's unreliability because they can reflexively point to it and say "It's not my fault IIS has gone down again." Because there's a long history of Microsoft failures, that's considered a believable accusation, even if it's no longer strictly true.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 29, 2007 @11:16PM (#20798357)
    I am not really satisfied with any of the above replies and I have to say this is the first time I have bothered to write a meaningful reply because someone usually is on the ball.

    The ONLY reason to support open source is power in the form of self-determination.

    Microsoft can try to force Vista on you and refuse to sell Window XP. Microsoft can decide next version of Office is not backwards compatible with other versions of office and refuse to sell your prior versions of office. Microsoft could decide tomorrow to make the next version of .NET completely incompatible with prior versions, making all of an organizations investment worthless as they have done in the past as they did with VB6, ruining the investment in that code.

    In the above scenario, Microsoft is in a position to directly mandate your business. If Microsoft -- or any vendor -- were to discontinue a product your business depends on and refuse to sell it, you are guilty of copyright infringement if you try to resist the change since there are no legal venues for the additional purchase of product X, Y or Z (let alone possible DMCA or EULA violation).

    Any business depending heavily on a closed source solution has empowered the closed source vendor to be the bus driver and they can -- by accident, by design or by circumstance -- drive your organization off the cliff.

    Open source, in contrast, grants the organization the power to control their activities. There are no unexpected surprises forced upon them, no vendor-lock, etc.

    It is NOT that whether or not you DO change, modify or compile open source software -- it is that you COULD and that you could decide to change or not change as you see fit and your organization can control its own destiny with no forced surprises.

    Open source grants control, there is not one other significant advantage it has because Open Source solutions are not necesarily superior (and often not!) to their non-open source alternatives.

    Open source means the freedom to not drive off the cliff if you do not wish to do so.

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