Friday, March 28, 2008
OOXML Political Involvement in UK
The Register is reporting on the political involvement of John Pugh in the UK
"Liberal Democrat MP John Pugh has tabled a parliamentary question
expressing his disappointment at the BSI's apparent change of heart:
"I am deeply concerned that some national bodies have considered
approving DIS29500 'in their national interest'. It is not in the
interest of the UK or any other country for DIS 29500 to be published
as an international standard in its present form as there are a
significant number of unresolved issues, including incompatible
licensing conditions, single vendor interest and control as well as
those other factors uncovered since the original comment period closed."
He concludes by urging the BSI not to change its stance on OOXML."Of course that's kind of the thing one would expect from Mr Pugh, he's hardly into letting people choose for themselves. Let's hope BSI remains indepent and it's also worth noting that NZL has been without political interference to date (at least that I've been aware of).
PoliTechLaw|Friday, March 28, 2008 6:31:03 PM UTC||
Sunday, March 16, 2008
Representation vs interpretation vs bare faced reverse engineering
The guys @ DIN (the German standards body for you non-skiiers) have done a bunch of work on a guide for translating between OOXML and ODF. They're seeing some of the same issues that we have come across in terms of ODF being 'lightly' specified.
"2.2 Representation vs. interpretation
Both standards OpenDocument and Office Open XML focus on specifying the syntax or representation. However, to be able to define a mapping between the two standards a knowledge about the underlying interpretation or semantic of the different XML token and attribute is important. For illustration consider the following example: Both OpenDocument and Office Open XML allow the definition of tab stops for a paragraph. In OpenDocument this is done by the <style:tab-stop> element. The position of a tab stop is defined by the style:position attribute. Its documentation reads: ―The style:position attribute specifies the position of a tab stop.‖ In Office Open XML the tab stop is defined by the <w:tab> element and the position is specified by the w:pos attribute: ―Specifies the position of the current custom tab stop with respect to the current page margins.‖. The problem here is that OpenDocument does not specify whether the tab-stop position is relative to the margin or relative to the paragraph indent. (Please note that OpenDocument differentiates between tab-stops relative to margin or paragraph indent in the table of contents - but is silent about general tab stops. Also note that e.g. OpenOffice.org Writer treats style:position to be relative to the paragraph indent.). These kinds of ―unspecified behavior‖ make a precise mapping definition hard."
It's like the whole "it's unspecified but OpenOffice does it loike xxx" thing all over again.
PoliTechLaw|Sunday, March 16, 2008 10:54:35 PM UTC||
Friday, March 14, 2008
When Unintended Consequences Bite You In The Ass
I'm a huge fan of Podcasts and one of my favourite podcasts is EconTalk. Now this is an unashamedly free market oriented Economics podcast but it covers some great topics. Here is a great one on Unintended Consequences of Regulation. THe Library of Economics and Liberty also has a good article.
It's this very thing that has jumped up and bitten the New Zealand Government in the ass recently. Bernard Hickey discusses it a bit here but judgging from the comments maybe not in enough detail or in an easy enough form.
It's pretty simple really.
Auckland Airport has been an attractive target for a new cornerstone shareholder. In a fit of naked xenophobia we first scared of the Arabs bt the Canadians have been much more persistent.
First we threw sand in their eyes by chaning the rules around tax and stapled securities. The share priced fell hard.
Next we changed the investment rules for 'Strategic Assets'. The share price fell further.
With the share price falling so aggrresivly (helped in part by the fact that the markets including infrastructure assets have been hammered recently) the Canadian offer suddenly becomes VERY VERY attractive. The difference between the market price and the offer price grew to be quite large. This of course piqued the interest of investors who in turn all voted in favour of the sale.
So in seeking the intended consequence, that of shoring up New Zealand support and ownership, the Government has in fact done quite the opposite.
At the start of the process it was likely that at least one of the councils would have to be convinced to part with their shareholdings in order for the deal to fly. In the end the enthusiasm of the Mum and Dad private holders to take up the offer is what seems to have pushed it over the balance. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if this late groundswell of domestic support doesn't see us end up with a higher degree of foreign ownership than might have resulted had a larger proportion of the sellers into this deal been foreign domiciled owners- i.e. I think if the Government had left well alone we'd have seen the Canadians buying more shares from foreigners and less shares from Aucklanders.
Politics|Friday, March 14, 2008 3:43:52 AM UTC||
Thursday, March 13, 2008
Who Is Telling Porkies?
The Software Freedom Law Center have posted a Resource on the Microsoft Open Specificaton Promise.
It states, among other things:
"There has been much discussion in the free software community and in
the press about the inadequacy of Microsoft's Office Open XML (OOXML)
as a standard, including good analysis of some of the shortcomings of
Microsoft's Open Specification Promise (OSP), a promise that is
supposed to protect projects from patent risk. Nonetheless, following the
close of the ISO-BRM meeting in Geneva, SFLC's clients and colleagues
have continued to express uncertainty as to whether the OSP would
adequately apply to implementations licensed under the GNU General
Public License (GPL). In response to these requests for
clarification, we publicly conclude that the OSP provides no assurance
to GPL developers and that it is unsafe to rely upon the OSP for any
free software implementation, whether under the GPL or another free
Lawrence Rosen says it's compatible with free and open source licenses. So do number of other prominent OSS legal minds.
OSP has actually been around for a decent length of time. For those who
aren't aware it's the approach taken to cover the IPR in relation to
the Web Services specifications work MSFT is involved in with OASIS
(Yes OASIS as in manages ODF). So for example Apache has implemented
SOAP- released under the Apace open source license. THe guys from Sugar CRM have also succesfully released their SOAP based web services under GPL v3.
So either Rosen is wrong and Apache/SugarCRM are risking IP breach, or, someone is telling porkies.
Maybe Larry and Larry (Lessig, one of the Directors of the SFLC) could get together for a bit of a chat (the are former collegues @ Stanford Law) and work out who is right, or who is wrong, or why we seem to have two TOTALLY disparate answers out there?
PoliTechLaw|Thursday, March 13, 2008 4:56:00 AM UTC||
Friday, March 07, 2008
Thursday, March 06, 2008
Silverlight 2.0 + Office Open XML == TextGlow
So we've been working on a great project over the past few months called TextGlow. It's the brainchild of James Newton-King and it's basically an Office Open XML file viewer written in Silverlight.
This means that you can view OOXML documents (default format in Office 2007) without having Office (or any other OOXML application) installed. Being Silverlight it works on Windows and Macintosh and we're also hoping to get it going on Moonlight- the Novell sponsored open source Silverlight implementation. Today at MIX08 and at another conference in Europe it was announced that SIlverlight will be avaialble on both Windows Mobile and several Nokia mobile phones. We'll be working hard to get it nailed for those too.
I don't want to steal James' thunder around how we built it but it would be remiss of me not to call out the team who have worked really hard on this project.
From our Intergen Interactive team, Nas Kahn made TextGlow look nice. When you look at it you'll see two things- a big white rectangle full of stuff that looks like it could only have come about from a '6000 word specification' and a really nice looking UI that wraps it up. Nas did the sexy stuff!
James did the stuff in the big white rectangle. Not as easy as it looks but mainly because Silverlight 2.0 is still pretty green and we had a few version changes and API changes over the past few months. James can provide the gory details.
Tony Yee (The world famous in Intergen Mr TY) Project Managed the team and worked hard to ensure that my propensity to feature creep any project I am let near didn't rub off on the team.
Katy Sweetman and Dan Ormond who have worked their tails off over the past few weeks helping me get the PR ready for launching at MIX.
So without further waffle from me.
Go Here To See TextGlow. A bit more press can bee seen over on the Intergen site here.
|Thursday, March 06, 2008 2:11:25 AM UTC||
Thursday, February 28, 2008
Non GPL Implementation of ODF Not Very Feasible At All
Feel free to take a look at the comments to the last post as this is a followup. You may want to ignore the snipey content devoid comments from our friend in the NZOSS community.
Herewith a follow up post that hopefully addresses the substantive questions that were actually raised (thanks Stu)
Sorry for the delay. I've been busy trying to get a high quality specification progressed through the ISO standards process. Oh and I've also managed to get outside to do some skiing in the Montana backcountry.
The issue is that the GPL aims to enforce the distribution of any derived work under the GPL also.
I do not want to release my applications under the GPL and inparticular I do not want to release any Open Source code I write under the GPL as I do not believe in the 'Copyleft' philosophy to which it subscribes.
Now that's fine. As a general rule I avoid GPL code like the plague (we do use LGPL code in some of our products). In fact our contracts at Kognition included a clause requireing neither party to the agreement to provide GPL code to the other.
So the question then comes to can I implement ODF without having to derive my work from any GPL based code.
My feeling is that even looking at the code for say OpenOffice will get me into trouble.
Likewise decompiling the code will be problematic.
I am actually comfortable reverse engineering by observation for features like 'blink', I do not believe that is going to breach copyright in the work.
But the question is, will reverse engineering by observation be sufficient. And to be honest I just don't know the answer to that question. I don't really see myself spending that much time working with ODF as I tend to agree with The Burton Report as to its likely levels of adoption and indeed the likely market segments to adopt it- selling software to people who are philosophically opposed to paying for software is unlikely to be a sustainable business. That said I did find a very interesting bit of commentary on the web about just this problem quite recently.
"The Gnumeric team does not envision using the OpenDocument Format as its native format.
The spreadsheet part of ODF, in its current form, is ill defined and has many, many problems. For example: (1) there is no meaningful discussion of what functions a spreadsheet should support and what they should do. Without that, there is little point in trying to move a spreadsheet from one program to another; (2) there is no provision for sharing formulas between cells; (3) there is no implementation -- writing an ODF exporter consists of reverse-engineering OpenOffice to see what parts of the standard it can handle. (Note: the preceding comments relate to the spreadsheet part of ODF only; we do not have an informed opinion on ODF for word processing documents, for example.)
We may revisit this decision in the future, should the situation improve. In the meantime, we will strive to maintain a reasonable importer and exporter."
Those guys look to have actually broached the problem and to be honest that kinda answers my question. If I can't realisitically use ODF without reverse-engineering OpenOffice then I'm pretty much stuffed in terms of writing a GPL free implementation.
.NET | Adventure Sports | PoliTechLaw|Thursday, February 28, 2008 10:56:12 PM UTC||
Monday, February 18, 2008
How Feasible Is a Non-GPL ODF Implementation
We had reason to delve into the ODF spec recently. Speficially we were looking at the Blinking Text feature in ODF (no comparable feature in OOXML so well discussed in our OOXML vs ODF shit fight here in New Zealand).
The ODF spec certainly provides details that this feature exists, it doesn't however tell us what it actually does. Sure it makes text blink, but there isn't a whole lot more detail beyond that. We specifically wanted to know how long to blink for. In the end we used a stop watch to time it... we think it's 2.5 seconds on and 1 second off.... at least in OpenOffice it is. But without looking at the OpenOffice source code we can't be sure. And of course, strictly, reverse engineering OpenOffice doesn't make one standards complaint.
But it got me thinking about how easy (or hard) it would actually be to build a good, interoperable, implementation of ODF. If I had to resort to my stopwatch for blinking text what else might I have to reverse engineer? Brian Jones provides a start to the list of application defined bits here. Now I'm guessing that OpenOffice interoperability is sort of the thing to measure ones self against in the ODF space (i.e. the presumption being that just implementing the ODF spec without any of the application specific extensions is not sufficient).
So reverse engineering by observation of behaviour isn't too risky from a legal view point. I can watch how long the text blinks on and off for pretty easily and I'm not likely to find myself encumbered by licences. But, what if there is application defined functionality that cannot be reverse engineered through observation? The obvious solution would be to dive into the source code- but, at that point we might find ourselves caught by the GPL license.
So what's one to do?
I haven't really thought about this situation in a lot of detail so consider this post a starter for discussion rather than a conclusion that you can't do a good interoperable implementation of ODF without being caught by the GPL.
What do others think?
|Monday, February 18, 2008 12:06:04 AM UTC||