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French Government Recommends Standardizing on ODF 210

Posted by samzenpus
from the if-the-french-think-it's-a-good-idea dept.
Juha-Matti Laurio writes "From the InfoWorld article: All French government publications should be made available in OpenDocument Format (ODF), according to a report commissioned by the French prime minister. The new report also suggests that France ask its European partners to do likewise when exchanging documents at a European level. It is recommended that the government will fund a research center dedicated to open-source software security as well, adds the article."
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French Government Recommends Standardizing on ODF

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  • misread (Score:3, Funny)

    by macadamia_harold (947445) on Thursday October 05, 2006 @01:44AM (#16317625) Homepage
    It is recommended that the government will fund a research center dedicated to open-source software security as well, adds the article.

    Wouldn't that make it a prediction, rather than a recommendation?
    • by joto (134244)
      Apart from the funny grammar, no! Just remove the word "will", and you'll feel ok again.
    • One reason behind the ODF adoption is the aggressive Public Diplomacy funded by Microsoft and their continous bashing of France [techcentralstation.com]. France is sensitive. France always understood very well how dangerous ressource dependencies are.

      Or think of the European Parliament. Who was the supporter of the freedom of software development and opposed Microsofts aggressive lobbying groups? Michel Rocard, former French prime minister.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Here in the US if some naive idealist came out with this idea he'd be on the MS payroll in a heartbeat.
  • by sporkme (983186) *
    While I do wish that this order was that documents would be distributed *only* in .ODF, that is just blue-sky-software-politics.
    The headline should read "French Government Recommends Standardizing on ODF, too!"
    Because most people use .DOC, that is the de facto 'standard' wether we like it or not.
    The real news here is the big F-U to Microsoft: We are sick of using only your software. Our governments are beginning to reccommend using alternate methods because we do not trust you. If you continue to
    • by kripkenstein (913150) on Thursday October 05, 2006 @03:43AM (#16318087) Homepage
      Technological Independence. It is almost like there is going to be a Bretagne Tea Party, complete with euro-geeks dumping crates of Microsoft software into the Atlantic

      Amazing that this hasn't happened yet, though, isn't it? Europe's entire IT economy dependent on a single corporation somewhere in the US, and they don't seem to mind.

      What if tomorrow US law causes Microsoft to make changes to Windows (say, to enforce the DMCA somehow), and Microsoft decide to keep a single code base in the rest of the world (less effort, since the changes are deep in the kernel)? If asking Microsoft politely for a 'clean' version fails, how would you prevent this scenario - legislation? Might work, but only partially (witness the fines from recent history against Microsoft in the EU). This is only one example, admittably highly speculative; but nations need to consider worst-case scenarios.

      And this is to say nothing about nations which have a less-friendly relationship with the US. What if the US and China find themselves at war tomorrow, and Microsoft immediately stop releasing patches for Chinese IP addresses? Will the Chinese IT war effort be contingent upon successful hacking of WGA and so forth? Yes, this is a possible fix, but again - how can they not consider the worst-case scenario where this does not work very well?
      • Amazing that this hasn't happened yet, though, isn't it? Europe's entire IT economy dependent on a single corporation somewhere in the US, and they don't seem to mind.

        What does that have to do with the IT sector? Or do you mean that the entire economy is based on IT?

        If it's the former, then that's wrong. IT is (or shoud be) just a tool that you use to get your work done. That's the same whether it's coordinating a fleet of taxis or running a governement or anything else. "making" and "selling

        • That's pretty scary when you consider that nearly each and every board room, meeting room and government office has a system that is exposed to the net with what amount to standardized backdoors into the system.

          Ahhh, you have hit upon it. You have uncovered the hidden agenda.

          So in principle anything could be hidden there on purpose or by accident

          Exactly.

          That's really scary when you realize that no one outside of the original vendor can do code audits.

          And of course no one outside of the original vendor

      • In the stupid scenario you are describing MS products would be the least important of preocupations.

        Any computer systems any country uses are securely built around products they can control during a crisis situation (if you think the Chinese military waits for patches released directly by MS for vital equipment, then you are watching too many bad movies).
        • if you think the Chinese military waits for patches released directly by MS for vital equipment, then you are watching too many bad movies

          Yes, I agree. But even if all the frontline and otherwise critical systems are MS-free, the economy and industry supporting the Chinese war machine is based (IT-wise) on Microsoft. So, the effects might not be immediate, but would eventually be tremendous.
  • by Flying pig (925874) on Thursday October 05, 2006 @02:11AM (#16317743)
    The French have a confused view of the US. On the one hand they like the style of some American popular culture and, contrary to what many people think, they were rather grateful to be liberated in WW2 (even now it's not generally appreciated that the Germans were progressively starving many of the French to death.) On the other hand, they still have a big thing about Francophone culture, and they absolutely adore standards (as a Frenchwoman once said to me at a conference, "My husband is a count, but I am in charge of electrical standards."), probably because Napolean was keen on them.

    So France is actually a pretty good place to promote ODF. It checks all the boxes. It's a standard. Any particular Francophone bits of it, the French government can influence by providing support. It is not anti-American but it is independent of America. Work on French support for ODF brings together France, Belgium, the doms and toms, Canada and Francophone Africa - so it is another small step in building links in the French speaking world.

    And ODF should be relatively easy to sell to the bureaucracy. Gentlemen and ladies, this is a French solution to an international problem. No longer will we bound by the constraints of the Anglo-Saxons...

    The only negative is that, in accordance with the immutable rules of French abbreviations, they will want to call it FDO.

    • by orzetto (545509) on Thursday October 05, 2006 @03:51AM (#16318113)
      [The French] absolutely adore standards [...], probably because Napolean was keen on them.

      Rather than assuming a cult of Napoleon and the Revolution, I would say they just are better bureaucrats. A lot of US political culture assumes the market "takes care of itself", and is almost ideologically against state intervention, to the point the US are the last country still using medieval units of measure because no one enforces the metric system.

      In France (and most other countries in Europe) the government can own large strategic companies (Renault, for example) and that's considered alright; I do not know what US citizens would say if Bush tried to buy Ford for the government for "strategic economic reasons". Frenchmen are mostly fine with the idea of a state intervening directly into the economy.

      Now that's true that politicians in charge of the economy can do a lot of bullshit, but so can CEOs (one word, Enron). The French system may be stiffer and less adaptable, but allows top-down decisions to trickle down better.

      The only negative is that, in accordance with the immutable rules of French abbreviations, they will want to call it FDO.

      Probably FOD, "Format OpenDocument", as OpenDocument is a proper noun.

      • Excellent - when can we expect the FODder WP app? Wonderfully appropriate, in a government context :-)
      • Rather than owning strategic companies, the US just has a system of pork barrel politics to keep them going (e.g. anybody making airplanes, and the amazing system under which American farmers have their surplus corn bought to make ethanol which needs as much fossil fuel to produce as it replaces, for no net gain whatsoever (source: Scientific American, this month). It is also good at protectionism when required - look at how online betting companies suddenly got hit when the US realised they were foreign ow
      • Rather than assuming a cult of Napoleon and the Revolution, I would say they just are better bureaucrats. A lot of US political culture assumes the market "takes care of itself", and is almost ideologically against state intervention, to the point the US are the last country still using medieval units of measure because no one enforces the metric system.

        Nicely summarised. I'd add that there's a corollory inherent in the above which can be expressed as "You get what you deserve." In the US, we have lousy b
      • by dfghjk (711126)
        "...to the point the US are the last country still using medieval units of measure because no one enforces the metric system."

        If the metric system provided tangible benefits rather than just being aesthetically pleasing then the switch would have occurred already. The US government did plan at one time to force conversion to the metric system until it realized it was an expensive solution in seach of a problem. I suppose we just expected a return on our investment that the metric switch couldn't deliver.
      • by 4of12 (97621)

        A lot of US political culture assumes the market "takes care of itself", and is almost ideologically against state intervention, to the point the US

        The US hasn't completely foresworn state intervention in the market. In fact, the US political systems is setup to receive bids so that state intervention in the market is dictated according to the wishes of the market.

        The large amplification of this particular feedback mechanism makes me nervous about the stabilty of both the state and the market.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by infofc (979172)
      What confused view are you talking about. You mean like torn between hate and love? Nah, the only ones that look at the world in a WW2 perspective are anglo-saxons. The french are just bitter that they invented pride, and the US hijacked the pride concept. i.e. bitter that they lost the cultural dominance game. And what a shame it is, french culture is 10x more charming.
    • by pubjames (468013) on Thursday October 05, 2006 @05:43AM (#16318659)
      The French have a confused view of the US.

      And the US has a confused view of the French. Especially recently.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by masklinn (823351)

        And the US has a confused view of the French. Especially recently.

        The current administration is not confused about France, France disagrees with the views of the current administration, France therefore has it's place on the Axis of Evil list, and it probably hosts terrorists. A lot of them.

        Don't move from where you are by the way, the police will be at your place soon to make you realize that the current administration is not "confused" in any way, and that you shouldn't voice such anti-american though

        • by jabuzz (182671) on Thursday October 05, 2006 @07:30AM (#16319371) Homepage
          For over 30 years the USA harboured convicted terrorists and openly allowed them to fundraise. This included the current administration. It was not till 9/11 that they decided to clamp down on it. In the meantime hundreds of innocent victims in Western Europe suffered or died as a result of US financed terrorism. Oh I forgot the IRA are not terrorists because they are not Muslims. I believe the French had issues with some Algerian terrorists being given haven in the USA.
    • France fought from the start the Nazi invation, they were at war with Germany 20 years ealier as you may recall, so they were under no illusions of what a German, revengful ocupation, would be like (Versailles is in France you know).

      The French resistence from the start looked for US and British support, they were unequivocal about who were friends and who were foes.

      US people do not appreciate other countries pride for their own culture because the US has none of its own. Say what you meay, but the US is a y
      • I'd say it's not that France takes pride in all things France, it's more that they wont consider anything outside France to be better in any way. Something similar happens in Japan. The Japanese will often only buy Japanese products, because they don't like helping outside companies.
    • by mgblst (80109)
      The US stepped into Europe for its own reasons, just as the UK did. Did you know that one of the reasons the US is so independent from the British is because the US waited so long to join the war. The UK had to sell of most of its US assets to fight the war on its own.

      And don't think that France is grateful for the part that all nations played (especially the US), but how far should that gratitude go?
      • Not to mention another reason the US is so independent of the UK; the fact that the French lent them massive military aid during the revolution.

        Of course it can't have made much difference because every American knows that the French always run away or surrender when it comes to a battle.

  • by Shadukar (102027) on Thursday October 05, 2006 @02:19AM (#16317767)
    "Change is always forthcoming, except from a vending machine"

    I don't think the main reason why this sort of thing (ODF and open source in general) is not more widely accepted is money (tco, licenses, etc) or political/economic pressure (gates/bush pressuring someone to spend their $ the right way).

    I think the main reason why ODF/Open source/etc is not more widely accepted is reluctance to change.

    To butcher a Dune quote, "They think in circles. Their minds resist squares"

    A lot of businesses (and lets face it, government administration is a business) know that pdf/ms-doc works, they have been using it for a long time. They are used to the crappy interface, they are used to the updates/pop ups/etc. They are used to the fact that it works and they are used to the error messages that pop up. They and their accountants are used to the monthly charges for PDF/office software.

    It is very, very hard to beat/argue against that sort of habbit. Yes, to us logical slashdotters (l0lz111) ODF makes perfect sense. Its great, we should bathe in it, eat it and breath it. It has word 'open' in it? great! More please!

    But a lot of the established businesses/governments/organisations, it is not the same. An argument "but it is cheaper" or "but it is better" can be meat with "but what we have works well enough" and "but we have always done it this way and there has never been a problem" and then there is of course "why fix it if it isn't broken?" and "ok but what if we change over and it doesn't work?"

    It is very hard to argue against established procedures/models/etc. What is plain to technical people is not always so to managers and accountants (often the same person). My point? More technical people in management.

    So yeah, big cheers to the French government. they are definitely doing the right thing, in the right way.
    • by pandrijeczko (588093) on Thursday October 05, 2006 @02:54AM (#16317923)
      I can't see where you get this idea from that there is a "reluctance to change" open standards.

      TCP/IP is an open standard that has changed drastically over the past 15-20 years or so as the Internet has created a demand for new er application services like HTTP or SSH. By virtue of the fact that open standards are created by an open commitee, for any formal change to a standard, there needs to be lengthy discussion amongst everyone as to whether a change is of benefit to everyone or not - yes, those changes can appear to be slow to appear but I wouldn't call it "reluctance".

      And as regards ODF, Microsoft have as much right as you or I to contribute to the definition of the standard and, based on their experience already with documents of various formats, can probably bring much "to the table" in ideas anyway.

      What Microsoft don't seem to realise is that they cannot have it all their own way - on one hand, they want to now restrict piracy of their products (and good luck to them) but, on the other hand, by doing this they will force out a proportion of their user base (who simply won't or cannot afford to pay for MS products) meaning that the potential demand for ODF will increase. It strikes me as inevitable that MS will have to recognise and support ODF in the future, whether they like it or not.

      • by Fred_A (10934)

        I can't see where you get this idea from that there is a "reluctance to change" open standards.

        I don't think you got his point. Open (or closed for that matter) standards change all the time. But people certainly don't like change. If they have some kind of cruddy gimmick in place that they are used to even though it's broken and you offer a simpler, overall better and mostly seampless replacement, people *will* resist it because it's different.

        In my experience, it certainly is the main hurdle that OSS

      • I can't see where you get this idea from that there is a "reluctance to change" open standards. TCP/IP is an open standard that has changed drastically over the past 15-20 years or so

        TCP/IP is a standard for techies & geeks. Techies and geeks (A) Like shiny new things & (B) Like things that work better.

        Joe Bloggs MBA is not a techy and not a geek. He likes what he knows. He is happy with "good enough", and doesn't wire his washing machine to a 100 Base T network just so his PC will tell him when

    • We tried to change to OpenOffice at my work once. We found it slow, buggy, and it didn't do things as well. I know ODF != OO, but what other big suite of Office apps is there? And OO is still pwnd on Exchange, unless you pay for more stuff.
  • Fench ODF (Score:5, Funny)

    by SeaFox (739806) on Thursday October 05, 2006 @02:23AM (#16317779)
    From the InfoWorld article: All French government publications should be made available in OpenDocument Format [CC] (ODF), according to a report commissioned by the French prime minister.
    Does that mean we have to start calling it "Freedom Format" in the U.S.?
    • by Shotgun (30919)
      Actually, Freedom Format would be a perfect name, even if the French choose to ignore it. It makes an excellent point and is much catchier that ODF or OpenDocument.
  • Where will the EU get the money for such a centre of innovation? They're already putting money into fining M$, so... ooooh, I see.
  • Been flippin' through the report. This is not just about ODF. His proposition 3.7:

    Compléter le mémorandum pour une Europe numérique, en proposant à nos partenaires européens d'établir l'interopérabilité comme règle de droit commun fondamental en matière de développement informatique.

    This calls for making IT interoperability a "fundamental rule of common law". Somebody 'sgonna be kissing their secret network protocols goodbye! The report also cal

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Edoko (267461)

      There are risks to legislating compatibility. However, in this case, legislation is probably required.
      • One useful piece of legislation would be to require that all software marketed in the European community be compatible with the open source standard. This would require Microsoft as a matter of law to provide compatibility "save as" with ODF.
      • Legislation could also require Microsoft to set as its default format ODF.
      • Finally, should Microsoft fail to comply, it could be subject to "conversion" fines to comp

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