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Why Open Standards Matter 158

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the why-behind-the-smile dept.
Tina Gasperson over at Newsforge (Also owned by VA Software) has an interesting writeup about her experience at the Government Day sub-conference at LinuxWorld Boston. Government Day addressed some interesting issues including some of the more tangible reasons behind supporting open standards. From the article: "Speaking to the audience of government workers, Villa said, 'Maybe 2006 is not the year that Linux ends up on your desktops.' But, he encouraged them, if they begin using software that supports open standards now, such as Firefox and OpenOffice.org, then when Linux is ready it will be that much easier to make a switch. 'And maybe you'll decide not to make that switch,' Villa said. 'But at least the choice will be yours.'"
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Why Open Standards Matter

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  • by bloobloo (957543) on Monday April 10, 2006 @05:29AM (#15098106) Homepage
    If you want to describe the importance to a non-techie audience, the best idea is to use the simile of describing closed formats like betamax. Although it had its advantages there are problems getting the information back out. Yet "open standards" such as cine film can still be viewed or transcribed more easily. The closest people can usually get to understanding in terms of computer programs are the problems in moving from Access 98 to 2000.
    • by MichaelSmith (789609) on Monday April 10, 2006 @05:41AM (#15098129) Homepage Journal
      If you want to describe the importance to a non-techie audience, the best idea is to use the simile of describing closed formats like betamax

      Imagine if you had to go to the maker of your car for servicing no matter how old it gets, and independent mechanics could not exist.

      • Imagine if you had to go to the maker of your car for servicing no matter how old it gets, and independent mechanics could not exist.

        Worse, imagine that your car (Car 97), even though perfectly working as far as you're concerned, developes a fault after six years (say it leaks oil everwhere you go) and the garage says that they don't produce parts for those anymore, you have to upgrade to the latest model of Car (Car 2003)...

    • by arendjr (673589) on Monday April 10, 2006 @05:52AM (#15098153) Homepage

      A very good illustration was made by David Wheeler at LinuxWorld about the importance of open standards, and it's probably even easier to understand for non-techies:

      [...] He went on to show the audience, through another word picture describing a 1904 fire in Baltimore, how open standards can prevent unhealthy dependence on one vendor. "Firefighters were called in from all the surrounding states," Wheeler said. "But all they could do was stand and watch the building burn, because their firehoses would not fit on the fire hydrants." A standard fire hose coupler could have prevented much of the destruction. [...]
    • Nope! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by babbling (952366) on Monday April 10, 2006 @06:02AM (#15098173)
      No. Ordinary people still won't care, no matter which way you explain it to them. The only example they will understand is when they get burnt by it, and even then most of them probably won't realise why things are so difficult, or that they could be easier.
      • Re:Nope! (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Imho you are wrong.

        When I studied computer science in the late 1980s, as a teenager I naively *assumed* that the world ran on open standards.
        What other kind of standards are there after all? If it's not published it's not a standard. I spent many months learning the (then) relatively new OSI model, soaking up IEEE papers on how ethernet and RS232 worked. All that seemed perfectly normal to me. The very definition of a general purpose computing and communication device almost *must* be based on open publishe
        • Re:Nope! (Score:2, Interesting)

          by ajs318 (655362)
          People of a certain mindset expect things to work together. People of other mindsets do not.

          Mass is a property shared by all matter. But people weigh themselves in stones, their babies in pounds, loose produce by asking for pounds or ounces and getting an equivalent amount in grammes, and buy pre-packed goods weighed in [kilo]grammes. It never occurs to them to think that they could weigh everything in kilogrammes and be able to compare their own mass to their baby or a bag of cement or a tub of colesl
    • by houghi (78078) on Monday April 10, 2006 @06:12AM (#15098188)
      While DSL is fine for the regular hacker, I dont know if a 10 year old will be confortable with it...

      OK, I asume you are refering how Betamax was better the VHS technically. First they are both closed standards, so no matter who won, the closed standard would win.

      There are plenty of closed standards that are accepted. Look at the music CD. I believe it was Philips that collected the benefits for that for a long time. Not sure if they still do.

      There is a difference between closed standards that you let nobody else use (like *.doc), closed standards that you control, but let others use (like *.pdf) or open ones that are made by a commity (like *.html)

      Naturaly the public must accept these standards and the governement must enforce the use of these standards.(meter, celcius, gram, liter, ...)
      • You seem to have a different definition of Open Standard to most people I have met. The accepted definition is 'a standard for which the full documentation is available and which can be implemented at no cost'. As such, PDF is an open standard (you can download the specs for the format, and many people do implement it). Flash is not an open standard, since you may download the spec but then only implement tools that write the format, not read it. I'm not completely sure about CDDA - I've used Free softw
        • I've used Free software to create and play CDDAs and so neither I nor the software author has paid any royalties.

          You might have payed those royalties as part of buying your CD burner and/or your CD-R. I don't know, but I could imagine it.
        • CDDA was invented in the mid-to-late 1970s; so even if there ever were any patents covering it, they will have expired by now. However, the "COMPACT disc" trademark is still protected; and no licence will be granted for its use on any equipment or discs that do not meet the published standard as amended. Hence this mark is notably absent from certain digital audio discs which deviate from the Red Book specification.
      • You really got the point across on this one!

        You pasted a snippet from an earlier comment of mine ( http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=182627&cid=150 96646 [slashdot.org] ) that was attached to a previous non-related post!

        =D
      • Look at the music CD. I believe it was Philips that collected the benefits for that for a long time. Not sure if they still do.

        The patent has expired, but they have a trademark on the term "CD." They still refuse to let nonstandard discs use that moniker, like DRM'd pseudo-CDs.

        There is a difference between closed standards that you let nobody else use (like *.doc), closed standards that you control, but let others use (like *.pdf) or open ones that are made by a commity (like *.html)

        I disagree with y

    • "If you want to describe the importance to a non-techie audience, the best idea is to use the simile of describing closed formats like betamax. Although it had its advantages there are problems getting the information back out. Yet "open standards" such as cine film can still be viewed or transcribed more easily"

      Your heart is in the right place, but this doesn't strike me as a great example just on the grounds that somebody (like me..) would go "huh? Betamax works on all betamax players!" A better example
      • Interestingly, neither of those examples would hold up to scrutiny in the EU. Car manufacturers can't tie you to their main dealers even for their warranty periods as it is restraint of trade. A lot of engine diagnostic systems have been developed through reverse-engineering for interoperability which is legal. Likewise, mobile phones can be used on any network as long as they're unlocked (you may have to pay about £5 for the service) and they haven't been reported stolen.
      • There are readers for OBD II (check engine light) that cost less than one visit to have the code read. And, it's an open standard, designed by SAE (society of automotive engineers).

        It's actually a requirement by the EPA that the codes CANNOT be read or erased without a tool.

    • No, the point really can be easily and simply driven home (especially to this crowd) by the most obvious example- Microsoft Word. Use .doc, and you get Word; use ODF and you get Open Office, Star Office, IBM's Workplace, Writely, KOffice, Abiword, and even more options- hell, your state or startups in your state can grow your own with no legal trouble whatsoever. And you can choose your operating system and other such as well, again, no problems. People aren't dumb- they don't need to be handheld on this is
      • The problem is that most people you're explaining this to are not 'this croud' and *have* Word at work, at home, everywhere. And many of them don't know what 'other operating systems' there are, or don't care that you can't use Word on your crappy lie-nux system. Thus the analogies to more common scenarios and how these issues play out long-term.
        • The crowd I was explaining it to at LWE was primarily IT people at large governments, and other people with at least some clue. [Realistically, if you can't immediately grok the value of competition, we're in pretty deep trouble to start with, regardless of the example chosen.]
  • why it takes time... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by joe 155 (937621) on Monday April 10, 2006 @05:33AM (#15098113) Journal
    It is always going to be hard to get people to start using linux on their home computers, people like what they know... I've been using windows since 3.1 and the change to linux is certainly taking a long time and small steps is what is on order... in a government/business sense linux would be easier to adopt... when you're at work you don't need to install things (the one thing I think windows makes so much easier than linux) as the IT dept can handle that the same is true of installing hardware... for home computers though, well, it would be easier to adopt if I had friends who also used and so we could help each other and figure things out...
    • when you're at work you don't need to install things (the one thing I think windows makes so much easier than linux)

      You haven't used Linux in a few years have you? I find that most of the time installing quality software on Linux is no harder than installing the windows counterpart. Most of the time, you don't need anything outside your distro's packaging system, so installing and finding stuff is much easier. If you try to compile everything from source, you're going to have problems. And you'd have
    • by mspohr (589790)
      "...to install things (the one thing I think windows makes so much easier than linux)"

      This is an old troll that is getting tiresome.

      Last time I had to install Windows (a few months ago when my daughter's laptop was overrun with spyware, etc.), it took more than a day to install XP, update and patch it, install firewall, virus scanner (and update them), then install MS Office (and update and patch it), plus other software that she used.

      Last time I installed Linux, it was also on a laptop (Ubuntu on an IBM

  • author mistaken? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by phreakv6 (760152) <phreakv6@NoSPAM.gmail.com> on Monday April 10, 2006 @05:36AM (#15098116) Homepage
    Has the author mistaken Open standards to Open source ?
    We use Open standards very much in our everyday life dont
    we?
    HTML, TCP/IP, GSM, PCI , XMPP ( jabber, google talk ).. etc. etc.
    • by MichaelSmith (789609) on Monday April 10, 2006 @05:50AM (#15098151) Homepage Journal
      We use Open standards very much in our everyday life dont we?

      Word, ppt, excel, smb, quicken, asf, wmv

      • by Fanboy Troy (957025) on Monday April 10, 2006 @06:12AM (#15098189)
        HTML, TCP/IP, GSM, PCI , XMPP ( jabber, google talk ).. etc. etc.

        We use Open standards very much in our everyday life dont we?

        Word, ppt, excel, smb, quicken, asf, wmv



        Even more interesting: compare which of the above said standards actually fostered growth in technology and paved new ways of doing business:

        The first set brought everyone the web, the internet, mobile phones, a plethora of choices for expansion cards, etc... all going down price-wise. Alot of opportunities of doing business also.

        The second ones, well... made us have to pick certain platforms/vendors to be relevant... I don't know about everyone else, but over here the price of windows or Office is not going down! Magic food indeed.
    • by babbling (952366) on Monday April 10, 2006 @06:05AM (#15098176)
      DOC, iTunes, SWF, MOV, etc, etc.
      • Re:author mistaken? (Score:5, Informative)

        by TheRaven64 (641858) on Monday April 10, 2006 @07:06AM (#15098310) Journal
        DOC

        Not open.

        iTunes

        Not a file format. iTunes does, however, work with standards such as MP3 and MP4. Neither of these are quite open, since you need to pay a small royalty to implement them. AIFF, also supported by iTunes, is open, however.

        SWF

        Probably counts as half-open. You are free to download the spec and implement things that write SWF files, but not things that read them.

        MOV

        This is an open standard, and is the official container format for MP4 bytestreams. Not all of the bytestreams embedded in MOV containers are open, however, but it is possible to put something like a Vorbis/Theora stream in one.

    • We use Open standards very much in our everyday life dont we? HTML, TCP/IP, GSM, PCI , XMPP ( jabber, google talk ).. etc. etc.

      Not as much as we should:

      MS Office (DOC, XLS, PPT, MDB), MS Outlook (PST), File Systems and Sharing(FAT, SMB), Non-ANSI SQL (T-SQL, PL-SQL), etc....

      Tom Caudron
      http://tom.digitalelite.com/patents.html [digitalelite.com]
    • HTML is arguably not open. Since HTML is an SGML application, you need to know SGML's parsing rules in order to parse it properly. SGML is the ISO 8879:1986 standard [iso.org] that costs ~140 EUR / 170 USD / 100 GBP to read.

      You can decide not to pay for the standard and wing it instead, which is what browser developers have typically done, and which is why practically none of them can parse HTML correctly.

      In my opinion, if you have to pay to read a standard in order to process documents correctly, then you c

      • Ah but since HTML is only part of SGML, and doesn't require a full SGML parser, the specs a only a subset. If you want to read the HTML Specs, head on over to W3C [w3.org].
        • HTML is not a subset of SGML, nothing even remotely close, it's an SGML application, and you do need to understand SGML parsing rules to parse HTML properly.

          I know very well where to find the HTML specifications, and if you actually read them (shocking idea, I know), you will find that it doesn't fully describe how to parse HTML, because the whole point of using SGML as a base is because all this stuff has already been specified decades ago. Some HTML specifications include a brief summary or tutorial

          • The real problem with HTML is companies who graft non-standard functions on to it and release development tools, etc, that perpetuate these screwy standards, making it much more difficult to create a true standards compliant browser that views all pages.

            That's kinda the downside of the open standard...The company that takes the standard, and bends it to fit their agenda, then propogates the bent standard to the world.
    • I think he's mistaken. Firefox is open source, not an "open standard".
      • But, he encouraged them, if they begin using software that supports open standards now, such as Firefox and OpenOffice.org...
        Firefox supports open standards, namely the W3C standards. He never said Firefox is an open standard, as you seem to imply.
    • Re:author mistaken? (Score:3, Informative)

      by luge (4808)
      We certainly use some open standards, but what I was getting at in the talk (I'm the speaker) was the next layer up of closed standards- .doc, ActiveX, AIM/Yahoo Chat (XMPP is not widely used at all yet), etc. Those are the things that lock you into proprietary platforms.
  • by Anonymous MadCoe (613739) <maakiee@NoSpam.yahoo.com> on Monday April 10, 2006 @05:45AM (#15098140) Homepage
    I once had a standards seminar where soemone made the interresing remark that open standards only matter to companies that are behind in marketshare. Once a company is dominant they want closed standards.

    Of course "open source" can hardly be defined as a company.
    • by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Monday April 10, 2006 @06:08AM (#15098182) Homepage

      I once had a standards seminar where soemone made the interresing remark that open standards only matter to companies that are behind in marketshare. Once a company is dominant they want closed standards.

      Perhaps that can be true, but I'm inclined to think that this is no longer so sure now that ESR's thoughts in The Cathedral and the Bazaar [amazon.com] have spread throughout the IT world. The more a company supports "open" ideas, such as open standards and open source, the more support it will get from the open source developer community. When a company is supported by open source developers, they can get a lot of unpaid labour that can push their products ahead of the crowd. Sure, certain licenses may require that the developers' contributions be available to all, but by the time competing companies implement the ideas, the first company should already have some new advantage.

      If corporations want to profit from this community spirit, then they need to avoid pissing off their labour force, and so supporting open standards is a good idea.

      • by Anonymous MadCoe (613739) <maakiee@NoSpam.yahoo.com> on Monday April 10, 2006 @06:42AM (#15098249) Homepage
        I think there is something to say for both points of view. In some ways the "free labour" sounds tempting, on the other hand having a closed shop with "your own" developers can be much more predictable (mark the can be != is ;-) ). And in that way it is harder to profit from your investment.

        And of course there are branches (like where I'm in) where things are mostly secret and the actual cost of internal development is lower than the cost of leaking information (which could just be a way of doing things).

        I think in the end it mostly depends on the type of business you're in.

    • False dichotomy (Score:2, Insightful)

      by bloobloo (957543)
      You're looking at it only from the perspective of the developers of the standards. I'd be surprised if anyone could show me how an end user benefits from closed standards.
    • It is worth pointing out that this is true of the producers of the software, not of the users. Users always benefit from open standards because it provides them with a second source. If your supplier is forced to compete, then this is obviously beneficial to you.
      • Very good point. And the folks I was talking to last week were the kinds of users who are so large that they can single-handedly produce change in what standards are used, to turn the tables so that users benefit instead of producers. At least, that is what I hope happens and why I spoke ;)
    • I once had a standards seminar where soemone made the interresing remark that open standards only matter to companies that are behind in marketshare. Once a company is dominant they want closed standards.

      Well, no big surprise there, to me at least.

      1) Shutting out competitors, consumer lock-in
      2) Easier to develop, whatever you ship IS the standard
      3) If you need a feature just add it without the buerocracy
      4) Choose what platforms you want it on, in case you have a vested interest in that
      5) Make competitors sp
  • Starts with DRM (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Neo-Rio-101 (700494) on Monday April 10, 2006 @05:50AM (#15098150)
    People are only going to awake to open standards when they realise that the digital movie or tune that they bought suddenly doesn't work anymore because the format is old, closed, and the company went bankrupt. I.e., people will only care about open standards when they run into lovely DRM more often in their daily lives.

    Now, from a business point of view.... open standards is actually much harder for IT outsourcing companies to handle. Most of the employees of such companies (who are cheap) are low skill, MCSE people, and even if they aren't, they couldn't write a PERL script to save their hides. Problems start when IT head management wants to try and get these people to help troubleshoot hardware issues with FreeBSD, hack the Linux kernel, and develop and deploy untested beta software for critical systems all at MCSE skills and prices.

    Not only is it hard to find people to be Open Source nuts and support open standards, but they cost more. This is where Microsoft wins out with PHBs, because at they pick cheap and fast out of the (Cheap/Fast/Quality) trinity... then they end up accepting locked standards.
    • Re:Starts with DRM (Score:2, Interesting)

      by babbling (952366)
      If Apple were more daring, they could sell as many iTunes songs as they could between now and the release of Vista, and then not release an iTunes client for Vista. Since there is a good chance the current version of iTunes won't work on the final version of Vista, people would be forced to either give up their library of songs from iTunes, or upgrade from WinXP to OSX rather than Vista.

      Of course, Apple won't do this because it is better for them (for the time being) to have people locked into iPods rather
      • Re:Starts with DRM (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Tim C (15259) on Monday April 10, 2006 @07:02AM (#15098295)
        people would be forced to either give up their library of songs from iTunes, or upgrade from WinXP to OSX rather than Vista.

        You seem to be forgetting option C), namely "or not upgrade their OS at all".
      • Re:Starts with DRM (Score:4, Insightful)

        by VGPowerlord (621254) on Monday April 10, 2006 @07:37AM (#15098387)
        Since there is a good chance the current version of iTunes won't work on the final version of Vista, people would be forced to either give up their library of songs from iTunes, or upgrade from WinXP to OSX rather than Vista.

        I can run Windows programs all the way down to ones made for Windows 3.1 on XP. Microsoft puts a lot of stock into backwards compatibility. Perhaps you should rethink that statement?

        • I can run Windows programs all the way down to ones made for Windows 3.1 on XP. Microsoft puts a lot of stock into backwards compatibility. Perhaps you should rethink that statement?

          I have programs that don't run anymore, could you rethink your statement ?
          And launching a program is not enough, it has to work too.
          Virtualdub tool to acquire video from my TV card did not work anymore, the software for my Miro card won't even launch anymore on WIndows XP, Theme Park wil crash constantly when it launches. That's
          • I have experienced several general categories of programs that have problems in newer versions of Windows.
            1. Drivers - Windows 2000/XP uses a different architecture for drivers.
            2. Anything requiring direct hardware access. Windows 2000/XP requires all programs to use drivers and kills off programs that attempt direct hardware access.
            3. DOS programs. Sound emulation for cmd.exe is iffy. Combined with the previous point, DOS programs are hit or miss. DOSBox [sourceforge.net] is your friend in both *nix and Windows.
            4. Programs tha
        • Windows Vista currently has a rather poor backward-compatibility. (about 40%) [winehq.com] It will definitely improve before the final release, but it probably won't get past 70% - 80%.
    • You missed one... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by PinkyDead (862370) on Monday April 10, 2006 @06:28AM (#15098221) Journal
      You're right, of course about personal usage and business usage.

      But another hugely significant factor is Government/Public Sector usage. Most Governments see themselves as in it for the long term - maybe not in the form of the current administration, or even the current socioeconomic model - however, even through major changes the survival of the information is paramount. Even to the extent of a ridiculous waste of resources.

      To this end, they will probably see (e.g.) Microsoft as a threat to their knowledge base - envisioning that their bureaucratic empires will long see off the demise of such structures (they have a point, as most bureaucracies are far older than any other organisation currently in existance). For this reason we are seeing more and more public sector organisations leaning towards open standards (the most prominent example of late being Massachusetts).

      It is worth remembering the importance of public sector contracts to the world's economies - they have a lot of influence.

  • Open Standards (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dueyfinster (872608) on Monday April 10, 2006 @06:17AM (#15098199) Homepage
    My uncle is so non-technical, he struggles to play solitare, but I managed to get Ubuntu on to his machine, and he uses it occassionly..........for solitare.......ah well Anyway moral of the story is that I explained Open Source to him using his work: "Hey Tommy I want to tell you about Open Source, Ubuntu and why Microsoft is wrong" First I told him about Mass. Debacle.......he started to lose interest...... Then I started "Think of it as fittings, what if everyone used different ones, it would be impossible to have the right tool (He is a welder/fitter)" Then he totally got it, and went on ranting about how Americans don't use the biggest standard of them all (Metric System, that is) and why Microsoft are no differet......
    • I think you've gotten Open Standards and Open Source mixed up. Open Standards is like those fittings and making sure everyone uses the same ones. Open Source and Closed Source would be like two different types of power tools. If you buy/build the open source power tool, you can do things to it that you wouldn't be able to with the closed source power tool (e.g. change saw blades on a circular saw) if you put in your own effort. While with the closed source one, you might get a different level/experience of
  • 2006? (Score:2, Funny)

    by miro f (944325)
    wait, so 2006 ISN'T the year of the desktop linux?
    • No silly...

      2005, 2004, 2003, 2002 and 2001 were the years of the Linux Desktop. I still have my Linux Magazines to prove it. After all, it was mentioned every January or February issue...
      • you must have missed the memo, it was 98...

        Linux Affecting MS Sales?

        Contributed by CmdrTaco on Sat Jan 10 at 10:27AM EST
        [Linux] From the up-and-coming-os dept
        Evelyn Mitchell sent us this story where you can read about slowdowns in Client OS sales. According to the article, Microsoft still controls 87% of the operating systems sold last year. The gem though is the comments about IS managers evaluating free OS's like Linux. Could 98 really be the year Linux breaks into the main stream corporate world
    • (Disclaimer: This post is a joke)

      wait, so 2006 ISN'T the year of the desktop linux?

      Here, lemme fix it for you.

      wait, so 2060 ISN'T the year of the desktop linux?

      There ya go! Looks better now, doesn't it? :-P
  • "Maybe 2006 is not the year that Linux ends up on your desktops."

    At the risk of sounding troll-ish I love how variations (is / is not) of this phrase have been going on since KDE 1.0 was released in 1998. It's taken at least 8 years of "Maybe Linux will be ready for the desktop this year" for someone to finally say "Actually, maybe it won't"!

    I sincerely hope it *does* end up on the common 'desktop' one day, but it's not looking too likely at this rate :)

    Back on topic, aren't even Microsoft opening their Wo
    • XML is not necessarily open. After all, it's extensible, and extensions can be proprietary. Microsoft could have a container like

      <SecretProprietaryExtension>
      ..... loads of weirdy characters .....
      </SecretProprietaryExtension>

      and as long as their schema mentioned <SecretProprietaryExtension> as a valid container, then it would be valid XML. If they really wanted to arse it up for their competitors, they could describe the document entirely within the secret proprietary extension; b

      • While that is possible, I haven't seen anything like it in the file format so far. You can see samples and the draft spec on the OpenXML website [openxmldeveloper.org]. From what I've seen, it should at least be easier to interoperate with Office12 XML than with the old binary formats. Not that that is saying all that much, of course.
    • Yeah. But it's not an "Open Standard". It's a spec of how to read the XML format, not how to write it. Some of the XML fields contain binary encoded data which isn't documented. So it's not open. They've just deigned to let people be able to pull some data from their format (like being able to only query half the tables in a database).

      So no, it's not Open...sigh...

    • ... was that 'the year of the linux desktop' will be different years for different people. For me, the year was 1998; for lots of people, it might well be 2018. But they can move that date forward by choosing open standards. The longer they keep using proprietary standards the further away the year of the linux desktop (or the year of the mac desktop, or year of $YOUR_OS_HERE) is for them.
  • by atrocious cowpat (850512) on Monday April 10, 2006 @06:47AM (#15098258)
    Neo: "What are you trying to tell me? That I can run Linux?"
    Morpheus: "No, Neo. I'm trying to tell you that when you're ready, you won't have to."
  • by PenguinBoyDave (806137) <david.davidmeyer@org> on Monday April 10, 2006 @06:59AM (#15098284)
    Every Linux World for the past three years has talked about this. From CA's CEO last year in Boston, to ODSL, Red Hat, SuSE, MySQL, etc. etc., the message is the same every year. Open Standards good, proprietary bad.

    The problem is that we sit here and beat our drums, but someone comes along and says "when Linux is ready..."

    Last I heard there were many organizations (Government, etc.) already using Linux on the desktop. I'm sure they will tell you it is ready.
    • Linux is ready. But the applications aren't, especially for professionals. Rosegarden can't replace SONAR, GIMP can't replace Photoshop, Nvu/Blufish can't replace Dreamweaver, Ardour can't replace ProTools. I have a dual-boot of Ubuntu and WinXP on my laptop, but if I'm doing anything other than browsing and emailing, I boot into Windows.
  • In short.. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mOOzilla (962027)
    What good is a system if it cannot talk to other systems (programs services etc).
  • by ajs318 (655362) <sd_resp2@eaRASPrthshod.co.uk minus berry> on Monday April 10, 2006 @07:32AM (#15098369)
    Open Standards do not matter at all to the vast majority of people.

    Many people, and many businesses, are committing their entire lives to digital storage under a plethora of proprietary, closed standards. One by one, the suppliers who created these standards will cease to exist -- companies will go out of business, or be bought up and asset-stripped.

    What does this mean? The photos you took of your children growing up won't be viewable on modern equipment. None of the recordings of the band you played in when you were younger will be listenable. Business letters written just a few years ago won't be readable.

    But a generation from now, nobody will even remember that Open Standards ever existed. Everything will be locked up behind proprietary standards, jealously-guarded secrets. If you're allowed to program your own computer at all, you'll be severely restricted in what you can do with it.

    And nobody will care. The problem will be thought of as "just one of the unforeseen hazards of trusting electronics", and lived with. By that stage we will already have draconian DRM in documents, and in most cases it will be so badly misconfigured that there will be no cut-and-paste; an operator will end up having to use two computers and two monitors, retyping information from one screen onto the other. All this will just be thought of as the way the world naturally works.
    • The photos you took of your children growing up won't be viewable on modern equipment.
      JPEG? (Okay, I'll admit that I ought to convert the NEFs for storage one of these days.)

      None of the recordings of the band you played in when you were younger will be listenable.
      CDDA? MP3?

      Business letters written just a few years ago won't be readable.
      Okay, I'll give you DOC.

      Open standards (or at least easily-licensed enough standards to be on a par with open) are nearly ubiquitous, and widely supported for both reading an
  • by RussP (247375) on Monday April 10, 2006 @08:27AM (#15098542) Homepage
    I work for the federal govt, and I recently received a notice from my organization stating that, for security reasons, only certain "standard" applications will be allowed. MS Office is one of them

    I don't have the memo handy, but if I recall, it applied only to PCs and Macs. I'm not sure if "PC" means a "Windows PC" or if it also includes Linux PCs. So that may or may not leave the door open to OpenOffice (or other ODF-based suites) for Linux at least.

    In any case, this mandate really burns me. Just when the world may be ready to start abandoning the MS monopoly, my organization is trying to reinforce it for "security" reasons.

    The other thing that gets me is that if I protest, most of my colleagues will think I just have some sort of quirky, neurotic aversion to MS because Bill Gates is "too rich" or something. You'd be amazed how many otherwise well-informed technical people out there are truly clueless about the standards war going on.
  • by FuzzyBad-Mofo (184327) * <fuzzybad@nOSPaM.gmail.com> on Monday April 10, 2006 @08:34AM (#15098561)

    Could the author explain why Linux isn't ready for office use? In my opinion it's been "ready" for several years, and only getting better. (And no snarky comments about lack of games, that doesn't apply to an office environment)

    • What I said in the talk (and I think got lost for perfectly understandable reasons of brevity on the part of the reporter) was that Linux is not ready for everyone yet. It was ready for me in 1998 (so that was the year of the linux desktop for me); it was ready for my girlfriend probably mid-2004 sometime, so that was the year of the linux desktop for her, and for Novell internally. It is certainly ready for some businesses now (as Novell proves), and has been for years, but others need any of a number of t
    • A decent office suite would be a start.
      • A decent office suite would be a start.

        Then please do tell us why OpenOffice 2 isn't "decent".
        • OO.org2 has got a lot better, but I still found it easier to fire up VMWare and use Office 2003, mostly for Excel and some Word. Office 2003 is quicker, has an easier interface, fewer bugs and of course better Office file format compatibility. As a word processor, I actually prefer Pages overall, although Office 12 looks pretty good.

          The existence of OO is important, of course, as competition for MS, and it has some nice features (print to PDF etc). In my experience, OO2 is somewhere around "Office 96.5" - p
    • From the Fine Article:

      Condemning people for not using Linux instead of Windows, and the strong-arm tactics of some proprietary software makers that try to lock people into a certain product, are just two sides of the same coin.

      I wonder if she would consider me irrational for saying that free software is overwhelmingly superior to Microsoft? That's M$'s FUD machine working as planned. It's the end result of a lot of Astroturfing and it's time to put a stop to it.

      Tina has bought into a lot of FUD to say

      • You can do more with Office on Windows or Macintosh than you can with OpenOffice on Linux, and they're more integrated with the OS to boot.

        You might not use the features in Office that OpenOffice doesn't have, but that doesn't mean that nobody uses them. Where I work, I constantly come across documents that use Word's revision tracking. It's not something I use, but it's an extremely handy feature that, frankly, OpenOffice doesn't do well.
  • by Eskarel (565631) on Monday April 10, 2006 @11:50AM (#15099530)
    I always see these arguments, and I always see people missing the point. I like open source, I like open standards, but I also live in the real world and can see things from the perspective of the business I work for.

    Open Office is improving all the time, some of the components(I only really use word processing) are almost as good as the Microsoft equivilants. The document format is standard and can be replicated by any application which wants to do so.

    However, it hasn't been, you can't just open an Open Office document, you have to install Open or Star Office, or possibly some other freeware application. Most specifically you can't open an Open Office document in Microsoft Office, which, no matter how much you dislike it, is the defacto industry standard.

    If you send someone a word document, they will have something which can open it, and if they do any document editing at all, they'll be able to work with it and change it. If you send them an OpenOffice document, odds are they won't be able to open it. The purpose of these sorts of files is to store and transfer data, if the person I'm sending that document to can't open it, then it doesn't matter whether the file is open or closed, because it has no practical purpose.

    You can argue about the value of open standards till you're blue in the face, but if everyone can't open it without substantial effort(downloading a 100 meg file is substantial effort), if they can't edit it without substantial effort, then it doesn't have any value at all.

    You could design a language which was perfect, which had no exceptions to rules, which allowed for no ambiguity or misunderstanding, which was, in every way you can measure such a thing, perfect, but if no one speaks it it doesn't make any difference at all.

    • You could design a language which was perfect, which had no exceptions to rules, which allowed for no ambiguity or misunderstanding, which was, in every way you can measure such a thing, perfect, but if no one speaks it it doesn't make any difference at all.

      Just say Esperanto, you're not insulting anybody here. :)

      But yes, I agree with you. Added to that, Word documents have features that OpenDoc doesn't have specifications for. It's interesting that Microsoft (if I remember correctly) has joined the OpenDoc
    • Most specifically you can't open an Open Office document in Microsoft Office, which, no matter how much you dislike it, is the defacto industry standard. If you send someone a word document, they will have something which can open it, and if they do any document editing at all, they'll be able to work with it and change it.

      First, I disagree with your characterization of the state of the industry/computing world. If someone sends a Word file somewhere the other person might be able to open it. Many will

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