Free/Libre and Open Standards

It is said that vendor-defendant file and communications formats are the "second hand smoke" issue of the Internet. Before consumers/citizens can be said to have choice on ICT there must be a strong government support for free/libre and vendor neutral standards.

John C. Dvorak on a Unified Linux

John C. Dvorak has been anything but a fan of Linux over the years, but in a recent column he discusses some possible changes that might even convince him. I'm a fan of the TWIT network of podcasts, with my favourite episodes of This Week In Tech being the ones that have both Cory Doctorow and John C. Dvorak (dot org shash blog ;-) who represent very different viewpoints.

John wants a Unified Linux. I guess I don't have to agree with John in order to find his musings interesting. I believe in source-code-level standardization of APIs and other such things, but I don't believe that binary-compatibility is a feature, nor do I believe having any one vendor dominate the marketplace is a feature.

MAKE Magazine: The Open Source gift guide

Make Magazine has created an Open Source gift guide.

There are hundreds of gift guides this holiday season filled with junk you can buy - but a lot of time you actually don't own it, you can't improve upon it, you can't share it or make it better, you certainly can't post the plans, schematics and source code either. We want to change that, we've put together our picks of interesting open source hardware projects, open source software, services and things that have the Maker-spirit of open source

RocketBoom has a video demonstrating some of these gift ideas.

May the Source be with you this holiday season!

French Govt to Adopt Open Document Format?

All French government publications should use OpenDocument Format (ODF), a comprehensive report (PDF) commissioned by French prime minister Dominique de Villepin recommends. An article on InfoWorld mentions that the report also recommends a government research centre for open source security, and the creation of a system for government agencies - local & national - to exchange information in the use of open source software.

All informative, vital, and timely, and quite possibly the basis for legislation soon.

A proper use of technical measures by authors and publishers

An article in the the UK times talks about an attempt to create a technology called the "Automated Content Access Protocol" which would tag content such that search engines would know what is intended to be done with it. While using such a technology is both appropriate and necessary, I believe it is inappropriate for legacy publishers to create yet another format when there are already standards for this. They should be publishing documentation on "best practises", and participating with existing bodies working on this problem, not coming up with their own incompatible formats.

Open document format puts an end to being locked into vendors and technologies

A Technology in Government article by Vawn Himmelsbach includes:

And while governments may not care about the technicalities behind ODF, they care about what it means: they will no longer be locked into any one vendor or any one solution. As governments move away from paper and become increasingly dependent on electronic files, documents and records, there's a growing concern about the control and management of their own information. Governments don't want to invest in or be locked into a single technology platform.

Massachusetts to use Microsoft Office in OpenDocument format plan

This CNET article by Martin LaMonica indicates that:

Massachusetts will begin using OpenDocument as the default document format later this year as planned, but it will be sticking with Microsoft Office in the near term, the state's top technology executive said.

This is a very smart strategic move. There is confusion in the marketplace about the separation of standard file formats from the specific brands of applications used to manipulate these files. By switching the file format only at this point, and later allowing a full competitive marketplace of tools to be used, they avoid the false idea that a switch in file format has any relationship to the features that specific tools may or may not have.

Government CIO Summit 2006: «FLOSS in the Public Sector» Summit

The Government CIO Summit 2006 will be on September 28, 2006 at the Clarion Hotel Gatineau-Ottawa.

What happens when the legal community is confused about technology?

I find it frustrating when I read articles like the one in the New York Times about how the French constitutional council, the country's highest judicial body, has declared major aspects of the recent digital compatibility law as unconstitutional.

I suspect that it is based on some myth that this law was misappropriating some property right that Apple has, when in fact that it is Apple that is circumventing the property rights of their hardware customers.

Microsoft bends on OpenDocument

This article by Martin LaMonica, Staff Writer, CNET includes:

Microsoft said it plans to sponsor an open-source project to create software that will convert Office documents to OpenDocument, a rival format gaining ground, particularly among governments.

Microsoft still claims there isn't demand for the standard format, which is amusing given they have added their own converter to a growing number of tools that can convert proprietary Microsoft office files to the OASIS/ISO OpenDocument standard.

France has an exclusive right to not be interoperable?

I find that the excessive expansion of exclusive rights granted to copyright holders is going further and further astray. I now read in a MacNewsworld article that, "authors' rights in France would allow artists whose works are sold on the iTunes Internet store to require that the songs work only on iPods".

I'm sorry, but such a "right" should never exist: An author of a book does not get to choose what brand of eye glasses I wear, the colour of my eyes or the colour of my skin. A copyright holder should never be allowed to decide what brand of hardware and/or software I use to access content. The practise used to be considered "tied selling" and was properly understood as something that should be illegal, not something that should be protected by law.

European Union members seem to have lost their way from when they recognized the importance of interoperability in their 1991 directive on the legal protection of computer programs (91/250/EEC).

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