Monday, March 31, 2008

is ooxml really open?

this is one topic that has been discussed in the mass media time and time again.
it is also true that people are now realising (at least ) that microsoft is not the only thing in this world that makes software and software standards. yes although this sounds like a joke but this is a reality. I have at least seen this in India that there are many who would ask you "you are not using windows/ Microsoft office" "how can you even use a computer without that?"
but I don't think we must laugh on those people although this is a joke which can be used to make a sad person laugh.
the reason is that through all possible means, microsoft and similar companies have made us believe that their software is the only "SOFTWARE" and it runs obviously on "windows " because windows afterall is the only "OPERATING SYSTEM".
this kind of dirty business is happening only for one reason and thus ooxml and similar things are created time and time again to take away our freedom.
yes we hardly realise this but our freedom is being taken away.
such kind of bad monopolising of information technology and related standards is done only because business is the last motive for companies like microsoft. Business? even non proprietory software making companies do business. but main motive for creating proprietory software is to gain complete control over us. the best way to rule this world today is not with the use of guns and bombs, it is through captivating information technology thus jailing essentially the knowledge and information.
may it be the ooxml draft (we still fortunately are not forced to call it standard ), or proprietory knowledge systems like encyclopedia, the entire motive is about taking away our freedom.
so ooxml shroodly named by microsoft as office open xml is one such attempt.
again being an indian and now since Buro of Indian Standards has said "NO" to ooxml, I think this is some thing we must understand in its why and why not.
back in the pre independence days, there was a commition set by britishers called the simon commition.
all the decisions related to india would be taken "openly " was its motive. but was it really open and how many indians were involved in it is well known to the histry schollers.
so now is the time that just like indians had a mission called "go back simon " we all in the entire world say "go back ooxml".

while I say that, I don't need to mention what is wrong with the specification and the politics microsoft and its world wide partners have played to gain as much votes as possible.
I am trying to put some points together for the common man. for the daily computer users who r non-scientific and have no technical IT background.
there are obvious questions now, in the context in which I am blogging about this huge issue.
to begin with, let me give a simple example.
in 2007 you decide to get new computers for your local school (hopefully you have not been misguided to install windows vista and spoil the lives of many students ).
now the auditor of a certain bank asks you to furnish all the accounting details of your school since last 10 years.
and wow, you have all the information stored in beautiful excel spreadsheets. now what happens, just to keep your self "updated witht the current technology" you installed office 2007 or even for that matter using office 2003 with all the updates.
so you are now about to put together all the audits etc for tomorrow's meeting with the auditor. "dam my documents no more open!" aah that is the expected obvious.
how can your old documents open in your new latest office software?
microsoft has already decided for you that your documents are old and useless. "how can this be " you ask? "well, I don't know how can this be but this is the reality you are facing." is the simple anser.
this is because of very basic fundamental of any computer.
to read and write information with a specific code.
now if that code is not open and is kept secret, the developer of that code can any time sabotaj your information and make it useless for others or even to yourself. this has been the short and bitter story of how microsoft has played the game with all of us.
but this is not the only thing. today they have requested approval for office open xml and after we do that, we will get the rich set of possibilitys wile using office 2007 and docx format etc. but don't forget there is another obvious possibility. the possibility of microsoft calling these same documents "outdated " in some years and thus again rendering all your knowledge and information stored in ooxml as useless. and with the microsoft's existing track record, this is not a possibility but a certainty.
alternatively the open document format (ODF) is open in the real sence. openoffice supports open document format and the bennifit is that even if tomorrow the developers of odf pull off from its future, it is still open and others will continue to freely modify it or even re make it totaly and also keep backwords compatibility.
this is because in the common man's word the code which is behind implementing these standards is open and the way documents are encoded and decoded is no secret.
you will never loos the information you store in those documents unlike what happened in word 95, 97 then 2003 and now there is no scope of .doc files no matter which version.
Microsoft was voted out in september and ISO gave them time to address the isues for which they got a NO.
but microsoft never had the motive of excepting those recommendations, because if they had any such motives they would have never went ahead and created a standard's draft when one recognised, tried and tested OPEN STANDARD already existed.
the major issue was interoperability among other issues. but microsoft refused to adopt any of the recommendations which would make interoperability with open document format possible.
this again proves that microsoft is only about creating a product selling it and then when every one of us has it, just say "that's too old and useless, so here is a brand new one ".
really? think for your self. do you need new and latest products every now and then? do you realy feel you bennifit out of every upgrade? how many of us really even know what bennifits are we getting? if at all any thing changes is the closed standards which renders our existing documents useless.

another complain a common man faces is that my document opens in this software but not that. try using a pdf file. have you ever faced a problem reading a pdf file? do you think that would have been possible with a closed standard like doc format?
and here is the most deadly problem. if this we create a document in a format which only one vendor knows, that company can easily put a small code instruction secretly in the software which will render the document unreadable for others if you wrote some thing which is not liked by them. and then why do we need to scann those excel spreadsheets or word documents before we open it?
again, the closed nature does not make every one aware about the security holes in the encoding and decoding software which is indeed as closed as the standards themselves.
so unwanted macros can easily be put by those who managed to find out the loop holes in the system and thus virus problems.
so here the common dialog of microsoft thta "since gnulinux is not popular, there are no viruses " sounds more stupid than their standards.
we must understand that 80% of worlds internet runs on free software including gnulinux. so which popularity are they talking about?
but we will leave that for a different blog.
the point here is that of the documents can be openly encoded and decoded with an international open standard like odf, we won't have feer of loosing any information and will not require forceful upgrades just because your all mighty software developer thinks what u have is "old ".
it is high time we realise this and start saving documents in odf. open office supports odt, ods etc which comply with open standards. and we all know that we can take information from a doc file and save it in odt for example, using open office.
microsoft is due to release the beat for office 2009 late this year and we are more than certain that they will again say to the common man "hey that office 2007 and earlier rivisions of docx is too old now. here is the brand new ofice 2009 ".
so think for your self, which way do we want to go?
odf can be openly reviewd and any changes to the standards are not just open but care is taken that your old documents are not rendered useless and not openable in new softwares.
so start migrating to odt, ods, pdf etc or wait for the jail to close its dores on your freedom.

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