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Michael Meeks On ODF and OOXML 184

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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  • Okay... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Acrimonymous ( 1164185 ) on Saturday September 29, 2007 @08:09PM (#20797251) Homepage Journal

    Isn't one file format (such as ODF) better than two? Surely the weakness of having many is the confusion it creates?

    Not that I don't enjoy a good OSS flamewar, but isn't this something of a leading question? As an individual in a position to make buying decisions based on this sort of thing, this is exactly what turns me off to ODF and other "community" technologies.

    The closed techs may have more technical annoyances and whatnot, but when it comes right down to it, open technologies and the confrontation they create even within their own support base just turns me off to the whole thing. Give me something that works for 95% of the whole group and I'll happily support the remaining 5% rather than risk 100% of my user base's productivity on something that may collapse from internal quibbling in a few months.

    Just my 2 cents, is all....
  • Well (Score:2, Insightful)

    by El Lobo ( 994537 ) on Saturday September 29, 2007 @08:10PM (#20797253)
    There is no need to change one line of code for that. My mom never could do that, nor could 3/4 of the population. That's why there is Options-Help-Don't use office asistent. Nothing is black and white. there is a lot of gray there in between and while OS is a completly good and fair option, commercial software is a completly good and fair option as well. Both have their advantages and disadventages, and OS id not the paradise, nor is commercial software the hell....
  • by Gothmolly ( 148874 ) on Saturday September 29, 2007 @08:12PM (#20797273)
    I'll put on my Executive Hat here: "So Open Source is good for removing features, gotcha." Arguing about turning off Clippy not necessarily a shining example of why OSS is good. Things like zero-day exploits, internationalization, and no per server (or VM!!!) costs are what will make people adopt OSS.
  • by bjourne ( 1034822 ) on Saturday September 29, 2007 @08:13PM (#20797277) Homepage Journal
    is the one Metacity uses. The patch to remove that one is also only a few lines, but I have yet to see a non-technical person manage to do that. The great advantages of free software aren't technical, they are social. People working together for a common good because it is fun is a more efficient economic system than the one in which you do it to get a paycheck. Imagine what would happen if the rest of the world where also structured like free software communities?
  • Clippy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SamP2 ( 1097897 ) on Saturday September 29, 2007 @08:14PM (#20797295)
    Last time I checked you can disable Clippy in 10 seconds from the Office Options menu, without the need to find the right line, remove it, and recompile. Anyone who is not capable of clicking Tools->Options and checking off a checkmark would not be capable of editing the code either.

    Not being anti-OOS in any way, and there are many instances when editing a few lines WOULD make a difference in the usefulness of software (Windows Firewall sure comes to mind), but this is not one of them. Sorry.
  • by gbutler69 ( 910166 ) on Saturday September 29, 2007 @08:21PM (#20797347) Homepage
    It's not meant to be a legitimate example. It is meant as an example your average computer user can understand and relate to.
  • summing up OSS (Score:4, Insightful)

    by abigsmurf ( 919188 ) on Saturday September 29, 2007 @08:21PM (#20797351)
    "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."

    This is also a prime example of where OSS fails too. How many basic users would be able to even compile a version with the altered code, let alone alter the codes themselves? Heck even finding a specific "no clippy" version among a variety of differently configured distributions could prove too taxing. Microsoft's approach to clippy is that if you hide it 3 times in general usage it'll present a user with an option to turn it off and it'll never appear again (provided you've a well configured server). An "if you don't like it, change it" approach simply isn't as effective as good interface usability testing when you're dealing with a userbase comprised of vastly different skill levels.
  • Re:Clippy (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 29, 2007 @08:22PM (#20797359)
    > Last time I checked you can disable Clippy in 10 seconds from the Office Options menu

    Young padawan, this is an option that has been added after several *years* of impossible to disable clippy.
  • by El Lobo ( 994537 ) on Saturday September 29, 2007 @08:25PM (#20797383)

    had it been say OpenOffice you could add a theme to restore the old look and optimize the code by either compiling it or taking out unneeded features to make it be faster.
    Yet everytime somebody talks about thebenefits of OS everubody uses the woruls *COULD*. Yes, you *could* do that, but you knoe any normal persson/busnes with the right knowlege/time/money in their hands to make such a hugh and potentially dangerous customization? Hell, I'll better pay for a closed source solution in that case. The question is not what yopu COULD do. Yes, you could customize the Linuzzz kernel. My grandma cannot. The question is what you practically are willing to do to solve a problem, and is it worth all the trouble?
  • Re:Okay... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Salsaman ( 141471 ) on Saturday September 29, 2007 @08:40PM (#20797479) Homepage
    Nice try at misdirection, troll, but the squabbling is over. ODF has already been accepted as an ISO standard, and is already supported by all of the following groups:

    http://www.odfalliance.org/members.php#viewall [odfalliance.org]

    Now perhaps you would care to answer the original question: why are two standards better than one ?
  • but I buy MS Office at work every couple of years because I won't have to request a new training budget when I do so.
    Citation needed that the retraining from Microsoft Office 2003 to OpenOffice.org 2.x is bigger than the retraining from Microsoft Office 2003 to Microsoft Office 2007's tabbed toolbar.
  • Huh? x2 (Score:4, Insightful)

    by khasim ( 1285 ) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Saturday September 29, 2007 @09:37PM (#20797817)

    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.

    You cannot forecast when to replace PC's? And you have 160+ users?


    Even at 100+ users, we lease our workstations and replace them every 3 years. It's a known cycle and they're under warranty. Not to mention that there aren't any surprises for Accounting for the next 3 years.

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

    Yeah, maybe you could just answer the question, okay?

    Apache can "fail" for many reasons.

    Yeah, maybe you could just answer the question, okay?

    Your excessively technical question suggests to me that you're not very involved in the business.

    Yeah, the question, care to answer it?

    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.

    How would they KNOW it was Apache? You haven't answered that question, either.

    This is just how it is, unfair as it may be.

    I didn't ask if it was "unfair".
    I asked how Apache would "fail" and how they'd even know that it was Apache.

    You have not answered either of those questions.

    I inherited IIS from my predecesor (who was, admittedly, clueless) and I won't risk my job switching to apache.

    Seeing as how you cannot answer either of those questions and you think $60,000 is a lot of money for a business and you cannot even forecast workstation purchases .....

    I've been deploying Linux throughout the company I work at. And no one can tell the difference. As long as the service is available, they're happy.

    Here's a free clue. Hardware fails. Real professions know this and have already taken steps to mitigate such failures. If a drive dies on your Apache server, the end users should not ever know about it.

    If you're claiming that they'll be complaining about running Apache when that happens ... you've already failed at your job.
  • by Nimey ( 114278 ) on Saturday September 29, 2007 @10:01PM (#20797935) Homepage Journal

    By the way, what do you think the result will be in a year when we start seeing Samba 4 AD?
    I wouldn't be surprised to see a patent lawsuit. It'd be disappointing, but not surprising.
  • When you get a .docx file you can't read, you say the same thing Office 2003 users say... "I can't open DOCX files, send it in DOC". The only difference is that Office 2k3 has Office 2k7 format plugins, but really, only the people who already know about them are probably going to be finding and using them.

    Furthermore, considering that OOXML is basically Office 2k3 formats converted to plaintext and zipped up, I'd have thought there would ALREADY be support in OO.org by now... at least, soon. OOXML was made to allow devs to easily generate their own or read them so I'd expect writing loading/saving functions would be quicker than the original Office 2k3 format functions...

    In short: There's still hope for OO.org. :)

  • by khasim ( 1285 ) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Saturday September 29, 2007 @10:07PM (#20797969)
    MSOffice 2007 costs:
    #1. MSOffice 2007 for each person.
    #2. MSOffice 2007 training for each person.
    #3. MSOffice 2007 deployment to each person.

    OpenOffice.org costs:
    #1. OOo deployment to each person.

    With MSOffice 2007, due to the default file format issue, EVERYONE has to get it AT THE SAME TIME. Or they won't be able to open the documents that other people are creating. And they all have to be trained to use it. And it has to be rolled out to all of them.

    And all that within the same short time frame.

    With OpenOffice.org, it will look practically identical to MSOffice 2000/XP/2003 so there isn't any training needed. As long as you roll it out slowly.

    And there's not cost to license it so it comes out significantly less expensive from the beginning.

    As long as you don't have macros or such or your major client isn't switching to MSOffice 2007.

    Or ..... Access databases. Those are the biggest problems in such a migration.
  • Re:Huh? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 29, 2007 @10:30PM (#20798103)

    Microsoft has a MONOPOLY.

    No, no it doesn't If it did, no one would be running anything else, yet guess what? Many are!

  • Re:Huh? x2 (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Acrimonymous ( 1164185 ) on Saturday September 29, 2007 @10:37PM (#20798133) Homepage Journal

    You cannot forecast when to replace PC's? And you have 160+ users?

    I don't think you know what you're talking about.

    We have a LINE OF CREDIT with certain companies that we use to REPLACE or UPGRADE phones and PCs. Beyond that, I have to submit a budget and it has to be approved. I've done this in three different companies, so I'm thinking this is perfectly normal.

    Yeah, maybe you could just answer the question, okay?

    You're just being a dickhead for the sake of it. It doesn't matter why apache "fails". 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, whether it's apache's fault or not, while I'm the guy who will get kudos for "fixing" IIS even when it's IIS's faulty design that causes the inaccesibility to begin with.

    Whether you like it or not, whether you admit it or not, OOS has to be 100% perfect to succeed on each individual basis, becuase if it's not, the guy who suggested moving to it gets blamed by the incompetents who, never-the-less, make the hiring decisions.

    The remainder of your comment is just idiotic. I'm fully aware that Apache is stable and more reliable than IIS. The fact is, however, that because Microsoft's name is behind IIS, I don't have to worry about becoming the fall-guy when the web server goes down. If IIS fails, and I bring it up quickly, I get "kudos" for "fixing" the problem. If I suggest apache, however, and the ISP flakes out on me, I get fired.

    If you have an actual solution to this absurd state of affairs, by all means, give it. If, however, all you have is the juvenile pro-OSS nonsense that dominates the "debate" spare me. I'm not risking MY job for YOUR principle.
  • by Zebra_X ( 13249 ) on Saturday September 29, 2007 @10:39PM (#20798139)
    "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."

    Or.... like every other user in the world - just turn, clippy, off.

    Code changes are not always a solution.
  • by khasim ( 1285 ) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Saturday September 29, 2007 @11:18PM (#20798373)
    My email server (Linux + Exim4 + SpamAssassin + ClamAV + chroot'ed BIND9) has over 600 days of contiguous uptime. And it's being hit every day by crackers from all over the world.

    Any competent admin can keep IIS running. Any competent admin can keep Apache running.

    And NONE of the users would even KNOW what webserver was running. My users don't know that I'm running Exim4. They don't know that ClamAV blocks the viruses. They only care about the SERVICE. And they're very happy with the service.

    If you have to reboot IIS to get "kudos", then you're incompetent. That is all.

    Competent admins get "kudos" for helping the end users perform their jobs faster and/or easier and for fixing the "I accidentally deleted an important document" problems.
  • Re:Huh? x2 (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mstahl ( 701501 ) <marrrrrk AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday September 30, 2007 @12:20AM (#20798759) Homepage Journal

    Lemme just step in right here. I don't think he's being a dickhead for the sake of being a dickhead. You're talking about two systems that purportedly do the same thing, but one of them is ridiculously flexible where the other one will only work on certain hardware, one is free whereas the other costs money, one is maintained by a vigilant community that fixes bugs quickly most of the time and the other one is maintained by an entrenched monopoly with no reason to improve itself. Also, in my own experience IIS has a number of other limitations, most notably for me being that it's a royal pain in the ass to get any non-MS scripting languages to run on it. At my old job the IT department was very capable, and with my linux server downstairs everything was pretty easy; with the IIS server it would take days to get a simple module added on to the install of perl.

    Really, if you're the one who's making buying decisions, why is it that management higher than you makes the buying decisions? All of your reasons you've described are all problems that can happen on an IIS server just as easily as an Apache server. By your rationale why is it not that they would fire you if your IIS system failed? Is it because they know that IIS sucks and they're willing to give it a larger tolerance? Well that's just stupid....

    And seriously. It's not hubris. It's that Apache really has proven itself to be a superiour software. More people around the world are using it than anything else, IIS included, because it works and people trust it, and they don't trust IIS. I think either you're just weak or scared or incompetent, or you're not really in the position you claim to be, making your buying decisions.

    One more thing: this is slashdot, and you picked a fight with someone whose UID is nearly a thousand times smaller than yours... you were just asking to get burned....

  • Maybe Acrimonymous created this particular account just to post controversial statements. But maybe Acrimonymous doesn't really have a deep history of making contributions on /., and maybe he / she is a paid troll. I'm not making accusations. Not yet. But look at his / her posting history. If I read his / her profile correctly, Acrimonymous has a very high /. user number, and has only posted on this particular thread. And, lo and behold, this comment is a criticism of Free Open Source Software production methods.

    Okay, nothing human is perfect, and only ideologues would say that Free Open Source Software is perfect, etc. But I find it really curious that this poster has a high /. number and a very shallow history here on /., and his / her first series of comments are directed at a broad-based criticism of Free Open Source Software production methods.

    So I would like to know, Acrinonymous, who are you, really? My name is Christian Einfeldt. I'm an attorney in San Francisco, California. I have used FOSS since 2001. I know about 20 CLI commands, and I use openSUSE 10.2 and Kubuntu Edgy in my law practice and in producing a documentary film called the Digital Tipping Point about how Free Open Source Software is changing global culture. I earn no money from representing FOSS industry players.

    I respect the fact that you might want privacy, and that you might want to continue to post behind the shield of your Acrinonymous handle. But I would encourage you to consider telling us all who you are, and the extent of your experience with FOSS, and, most important, what industry you are in. Because right now, a first gut impression is that you are, indeed, acrimonious by nature and by trade.
  • by LingNoi ( 1066278 ) on Sunday September 30, 2007 @03:59AM (#20799687)
    Why don't you just grow a backbone and ask them to install the ODF plugin for office and send you an ODF.
  • Re:Well (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Lennie ( 16154 ) on Sunday September 30, 2007 @05:45AM (#20800003)
    It is an option during installation/setup, that solves the problem.
  • by ajs318 ( 655362 ) <`sd_resp2' `at' `earthshod.co.uk'> on Sunday September 30, 2007 @09:54AM (#20801031)
    As you say, OpenOffice.org is easy to download for Windows (and all the "easy" Linux distros have precompiled packages that you can download with a few mouse clicks; if you're using a distro where you have to compile it yourself, you probably already can handle stuff like that). But thanks to Microsoft's weaselly behaviour, it'll almost certainly never be able to render OOXML documents exactly as per MS Office. The specification is incomplete (it makes frequent references to Microsoft internal documents, with which nobody else could reasonably be expected to be familiar) and it's far from certain that Microsoft will truly adhere to the published spec with what they release. For example, they might well deliberately mung layouts in subtle ways, so someone else's generated "by-the-book" OOXML document won't look right in Word. And without forcing Microsoft to reveal their Source Code (something which, TTBOMK, no court has ever ordered anyone to do) nobody could prove beyond reasonable doubt that Microsoft were to blame.

    It's in Microsoft's interest never to be able to export a document so that anyone else's software can make sense of it. Office has always had the ability to import various data formats, but exporting is something it deliberately doesn't do. If anything other than Word or Excel could open a document created using Word or Excel, then at least some people would use that in place of Word or Excel -- and Microsoft would lose their monopoly.

    They might add ODF import (in fact, it makes good sense to do that), but there's no way in hell they'll ever add ODF export. Although, as I've hinted, it could be done by some third party prepared to rewrite OpenOffice.org's save routine in Office VBA macros.

"This is lemma 1.1. We start a new chapter so the numbers all go back to one." -- Prof. Seager, C&O 351