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MA Senator Decries OpenDocument Decision 233

An anonymous reader writes to mention a ZDNet article on Massachusetts senator Marc Pacheco's OpenDocument study. The report blasts the decision to switch to the OSS-friendly document format, saying the state's IT division didn't have the authority to make that decision and has disregarded the needs of disabled citizens. From the article: "'The process, quite frankly, was driven by one individual in a very powerful position (Kriss) issuing a memo to an individual in a less powerful position (Quinn). Then he was told to get it done and forget about any obstacles,' Pacheco said. Although OpenDocument is not yet widely used, other government entities, including Belgium, have expressed interest in OpenDocument as a standard as well."
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MA Senator Decries OpenDocument Decision

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  • Apples & Oranges (Score:5, Insightful)

    by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <eldavojohn@NOspam.gmail.com> on Friday June 30, 2006 @03:44PM (#15638784) Journal
    Microsoft Office has built-in help for people with disabilities, such as voice synthesizers, special screen readers and enlargers, Winske said. But he said OpenDocument-based products do not yet.
    OpenDocument is a standard format for documents that anyone can use. It doesn't have anything to do with voice synthesizing or special screen readers. That's the editor/viewing application's responsibility or capability.

    You are witnessing ignorance when someone claims a format is insufficient because a suite of applications supports more functionality.

    The real irony is that someone will probably write a plug-in [linux-watch.com] for MS products to use OpenDocument anyway.

    Microsoft's eager to offer plug-ins for nearly any other proprietary file format. It just seems that the second someone tries to give something they worked on away for free, Microsoft starts criticizing it as being too slow for the user.
    'The process, quite frankly, was driven by one individual in a very powerful position (Kriss) issuing a memo to an individual in a less powerful position (Quinn). Then he was told to get it done and forget about any obstacles,'
    And what's wrong with that? Happens all the time. You put a person in a powerful position and they make executive decisions. They are busy so they delegate it to someone else. I'm waiting for the reason that this was a bad move. Do you expect a board to discuss and delegate on every issue down to what file format is used by the government? Do you want the process to require that much time and resource?

    Nobody's crapping bricks when the sewage administrator is mandating standardized units being used on reports for the city's waterways and sewers now, are they? Won't somebody please think about the vertically disabled people that like to report their height in centimeters, not inches so that it's a larger number and they feel taller?

    <sarcasm>My god, the state's IT Division is trying to advise the state government on what file format to adopt. What is this world coming to?</sarcasm>

    After delivering his speech, John Winske shook hands with Steve Ballmer & was seen struggling to drag away a visibly overladened burlap sack with a giant green '$' on the front of it.
    • OpenDocument is a standard format for documents that anyone can use. It doesn't have anything to do with voice synthesizing or special screen readers. That's the editor/viewing application's responsibility or capability.

      The point is, does OpenOffice or whatever apps are currently available that use the OpenDoc format has the same level of help for people with disabilities as Office? Obviously it's (mostly) the app not the format that addresses this, but it's a valid bitch: Does OpenOffice or any of the o

      • Most people who are not completely blinded by ideology will say honestly, "not yet".

        Ah, you're right, I am blinded by my own zeal. Thank you for helping me see the light.

        Not only should we select a document format that supports speech, but that should be embedded into the file format as a wav. I think that this will make it easier for applications to play it for the user.

        Also embedded in the document will be a massive bitmap containing high resolution images with enlarged fonts for our users h

        • by Mattintosh ( 758112 ) on Friday June 30, 2006 @04:54PM (#15639429)
          I just opened up MS Word and typed "Hello World!" and saved it to my desktop. 24,064 bytes. Why? What in God's name is that bloated app bloating in it's bloated files?

          From what I recall, it saves a memory dump to a file. That would include app state, undo, and other information that didn't need to survive, and it shoves it into semi-permanent storage. This explains a bunch of retarded, mind-boggling things we've all heard (and disbelieved) about Word, such as:
          1) There are old, deleted, removed items still lingering in the saved data. (Proven, and has bitten people in the ass. I'm guessing it's Undo steps saved as part of the dump.)
          2) Your example - "Hello, World!" takes 24k. (How much working memory does a fresh instance of Word use in the amount of time it takes to open a new document from the Normal template, type something, and save it? I'd guess about 24k.)
          3) Every Word release comes with a new format, while Excel and other Office apps don't always have a new format. (The app footprint changes with every release, of course, so the memory dump does too.)
          4) Word can usually open its own format very quickly, while other apps take FOREVER to import it. (It just loads working memory with whatever's in the file, while other apps don't use the same info and have to figure out what everything means.)
          5) Word sometimes can't even open its own format. (Whoops, something got out of place before this file was dumped, now Word can't reconstruct its memory map! CRASH!)

          Absolutely retarded. And Microsoft has the nerve to ask why anyone would want to use other software. I dare them to ask why anyone would want to use THEIR insecure, buggy, incompatible, locked-in, proprietary, asstastic formats and the apps that produce them. Microsoft should've stuck to what it did best: make Excel better.
        • by maxume ( 22995 ) on Friday June 30, 2006 @04:59PM (#15639474)
          So pragmatism only works if it occurs along the lines of your personal ideology? It makes perfect sense for Massechusetts to move in the direction of using odf. However, discontinuing the use of Office before application support for odf is equal to that of Office makes no sense at all.

          I don't even need to make some crazy argument about including a dictionary of definitions of words used(recursive even) in the document.

          As far as what is in the bloated file, who cares? If you want a text file, use a text file, Word is a word processing/document layout monstrosity.
          • by _Sprocket_ ( 42527 ) on Friday June 30, 2006 @05:15PM (#15639589)
            However, discontinuing the use of Office before application support for odf is equal to that of Office makes no sense at all.


            Actually - the proposal that included moving to ODF as the official format also included continued use of MS Office as required until a full migration could be made for everyone. That is, assuming Microsoft insisted in to providing a method for MS Office to use ODF. Which, honestly, is a funny thing to do when a major customer has a set requirement. Zealotry, indeed.
        • There is nothing wrong with the OpenDoc format -- it is a storage medium. By contrast, MS Office's and OpenOffice's function is to display the contents of such media in a way that is useful to the user. In this case, the shortcoming is indeed with OpenOffice, not OpenDoc.

          Also, at what point was GP arguing for MS Office? The most you can glean from GP's post regarding his opinions on MS Office is that he's neutral, as there's nothing whether he prefers MS Office or not, only that one function of MS Offi
        • Ah, you're right, I am blinded by my own zeal. Thank you for helping me see the light.

          Not only should we select a document format that supports speech, but that should be embedded into the file format as a wav. I think that this will make it easier for applications to play it for the user

          Now you're intentionally refusing to see the problem.

          You can argue until you're blue in the face that document format and application features are two separate things, but this fact remains: if you dictate a format, t

          • by grcumb ( 781340 ) on Friday June 30, 2006 @07:40PM (#15640464) Homepage Journal

            "You can argue until you're blue in the face that document format and application features are two separate things, but this fact remains: if you dictate a format, then people have to use an application that supports the format!"

            An application that supports the format? You mean, like, Microsoft Office [linux-watch.com]?

            I think you're the one missing the point here. Anyone who argues apps agains formats is liable to fall into the same logical hole: Just because an app - or an app-maker, for that matter - doesn't support a format today, doesn't mean that they can't or won't. The mere fact that it is standard and required will almost inevitably be enough to ensure that someone steps up and supports the format.

            Ultimately, the whole point of open formats is the exact opposite of telling someone which application they can or cannot use. The truth of it is that open formats allow the customer to decide what's best for him, without fear of finding himself at the mercy of a single, predatory vendor.

      • Re:Apples & Oranges (Score:2, Informative)

        by terevos ( 148651 )
        Also, just because OpenOffice is the de-facto standard for reading/writing the OpenDocument format doesn't mean that it's the only thing you can use. And while I don't think there is a good OSS wordprocessor that does support this, there are plugins for MS Office to import and export OpenDocument. I believe they are free as well.

        So the good thing about OpenDocument is that everyone can read the format. Even if you're a user with disabilities and you need to use MS Office.

        And eventually, there will be a read
      • by lynx_user_abroad ( 323975 ) on Friday June 30, 2006 @04:47PM (#15639359) Homepage Journal
        [D]oes OpenOffice or whatever apps are currently available that use the OpenDoc format has the same level of help for people with disabilities as Office?

        Does Microsoft Office (the only application which fully supports the Microsoft Office format) offer the same level of help for people without Microsoft Office on their machine as OpenDoc apps do?? Do you really think this world (or Mass. even) has more "people with disabilities" than it has "people without Microsoft Office"?

        Most people who are not completely blinded by their own addiction to Microsoft will honestly say "no".

        You're living in the here and now. In ten years or so, even you will be disabled when it comes to reading Microsoft Office documents produced in the current version of Microsoft Office unless those documents have been converted to whatever new format Microsoft will be pushing then.

        Ten years ago, your computer was (likely) running Win95 (because Win98 won't be available for another two years yet). Documents produced in 1996 by whatever version of Word Microsoft was pushing back then might still be mostly readable in the current version. But if they aren't, good luck finding a copy of the OS and a copy of the application which created them to use.

        Now think about 20 years ago. 50 years? We're not talking about some school-kid's homework, we're talking about Public Records which belong to the residents of Mass. in 2106 as much as the Mass. Constitution belongs to the residents of the Commonwealth today.

      • by nathanh ( 1214 ) on Friday June 30, 2006 @05:13PM (#15639570) Homepage
        Does OpenOffice or any of the other semi-mature non-Microsoft applications have support for disabilities at or better than MS Office? Most people who are not completely blinded by ideology will say honestly, "not yet".

        You're confusing the document format with one of the many applications that can read/write that format. The state mandate was for Open Document. You're complaining that Open Office - one of 15 applications that can read/write Open Document - is inferior to Microsoft Office.

        Microsoft could quite easily write a plugin to read/write Open Document. Microsoft Office already support dozens of other formats of dubious quality and relevance. Open Document is clearly relevant and IMO of very high quality. Why is Open Document such a problem for Microsoft? I think I know why. Do you?

      • by tsm_sf ( 545316 ) on Friday June 30, 2006 @05:35PM (#15639710) Journal
        The point is, does OpenOffice or whatever apps are currently available that use the OpenDoc format has the same level of help for people with disabilities as Office? Obviously it's (mostly) the app not the format that addresses this, but it's a valid bitch: Does OpenOffice or any of the other semi-mature non-Microsoft applications have support for disabilities at or better than MS Office? Most people who are not completely blinded by ideology will say honestly, "not yet".

        MS won't ever support a standard that directs interest away from themselves unless someone holds their feet to the fire. It's not suprising at all, or even particularly "evil". Like any dumb beast, they just need a kick in the nuts every now and then to point them in the right direction.

        Oh, if you're a person w/ disabilities... why the hell are you not using a Mac? Don't make us suffer because of your masochistic tendencies, ok?
      • Re:Apples & Oranges (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Smallpond ( 221300 )
        Here [microsoft.com] is the MS list of accessibility features in Word. Which of these are not available in OO?
    • You are witnessing ignorance when someone claims a format is insufficient because a suite of applications supports more functionality.

      Years of using programs like Microsoft Word and other proprietary applications have gotten people used to thinking that applications and document formats have a 1:1 relationship. It's so rare, outside of a few widely-accepted interchange formats (txt, jpg, gif, bmp, etc.) to be able to use a single document format across a number of applications, without the format "belonging" to one particular program, that people can't separate the two anymore.

      People criticize software for things they don't like in the format -- even though many programs today (including OO) can use many different document formats -- and they criticize the format for things they don't like in whatever's perceived to be "its" application.

      People who are pushing Open Standards need to be more clear about the difference between a format and the software that uses it. 'OpenDocument' is a format, OpenOffice.org is just one of the many applications that can use that format.

      That said, the MA politician in the article is a first-class tool, so I wouldn't count on ever educating his type, except through large wads of cash. I wouldn't be surprised to find he's getting some sort of kickback from Redmond at some level, or has a personal grudge against the IT office, or is hoping to make this into some bit of a power play. I doubt very much he gives two squirts of piss about the actual issue; it's just "an issue" to him.
      • That said, the MA politician in the article is a first-class tool, so I wouldn't count on ever educating his type, except through large wads of cash. I wouldn't be surprised to find he's getting some sort of kickback from Redmond at some level, or has a personal grudge against the IT office, or is hoping to make this into some bit of a power play. I doubt very much he gives two squirts of piss about the actual issue; it's just "an issue" to him.

        2 or 3 weeks ago MS declared they were giving $30M of equipmen

        • Not to mention the population of a previously vacant warehouse in Worcester with approximately 500,000 obsolete MS butterfly keyboards.

          On a related note, Mitch Bainwol and Cary Sherman were seen chuckling hearily upon hearing about the donation ...
      • Re:Apples & Oranges (Score:4, Informative)

        by El Torico ( 732160 ) on Friday June 30, 2006 @04:13PM (#15639044)
        I wouldn't be surprised to find he's getting some sort of kickback from Redmond at some level, or has a personal grudge against the IT office, or is hoping to make this into some bit of a power play.


        I thought of that too, so I looked up his contributors at http://www.campaignmoney.com/political/campaigns/m arc_r_pacheco.asp?cycle=02 [campaignmoney.com], but I didn't see Microsoft or its employees as contributors. However, Information Week has an interesting article at http://www.informationweek.com/shared/printableArt icle.jhtml?articleID=172900251 [informationweek.com] that states that Microsoft gained support of both State Senator Marc Pacheco and Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin. It doesn't state how it gained their support.
        I suspect that these two are pandering to a special interest group (in this case, the disabled) to gain votes in upcoming elections. Of course, pandering to Microsoft may benefit them too.

      • It's so rare, outside of a few widely-accepted interchange formats (txt, jpg, gif, bmp, etc.) to be able to use a single document format across a number of applications, without the format "belonging" to one particular program, that people can't separate the two anymore.

        To be fair, exchanging read/write documents in a complex format is not at all easy. Even web browsers aren't fully compatible in simplay displaying documents! One thing is almost certain: word processors never quite work right with anyt

        • Oh so unfair...

          The web is borked due to standards being implemented incorrectly and browser makers having to make the decisions on supporting X widely used feature or sticking to the standard. I'm sure if you want to read up fully there are a billion rants simply a search away.

          When it comes down to ODF...

          It's not precisely proprietary so anyone can make a filter to import to their native feature set. If the software vendor simply can't figure out how to make it work with their own software then perhaps they
      • What always amazes me is how cheaply those politicians can be bought. Cheap whores.
    • Re:Apples & Oranges (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Atmchicago ( 555403 ) on Friday June 30, 2006 @04:08PM (#15639001)

      You are absolutely correct that the Senator is talking about a red herring.

      You can also argue with him, claiming that those who cannot afford the money to purchase either OSX or Windows and a copy of MS Office are effectively 'disabled' and incapable of composing compatible documents.

      • Hey, at least he's honest, by the Heinleinian definition:

        Once he's bought, he stays bought.
      • This isn't as "insightful" as it appears. There are plenty computers ("PC's", sorry "Apple" guys) that can be had for a couple hundred bucks that will run Windows (hell, they COME with it) and Office. Monitors often come free (though they are usually 15" CRT's or, lately, 15" LCD's). As for office? I know several people who have Office 2000 (before they started requiring 'activation'). You can get it quite easily over many P2P networks and probably even via the different torrent "web sites" (IE: pirate
      • He's a Republican so he would retort that those without money should be ignored and not heard anyway.
    • Come on! Give the guy a break. He's a politian who actually got an issue related to technology correct. Thats something you don't see every day! Sure his terminology was a little off, but I'm sure most of the /. crowd could easily mess up political terminology like contribution, kick-back, bribe, soft money, etc. We cannnot all be experts in everything. I at least have to give him credit for this issue with the change being correct (at least for now) even if he did make a small slip in terminology whi
    • It's kind of ironic. I must be part of the audience for which this senator is attempted to advocate. I was working on a Word document for a coworker that was a glorifed form. She couldn't get it to not bullet her paragraphs as individual list items. After struggling with it for a while, I was able to overcome this amazing "feature" by randomly deleting text until it stopped auto-formatting the paragraph (I achieved this by pasting the text into Notepad, removing some funny characters, clearing out the f

      • by CastrTroy ( 595695 )
        This is what really pisses me off about current word processors. They try do read your mind and do everything for you. 99% of the time they get it wrong. I think there's some good automation tools such as completing long words for you, and correcting some spelling mistakes. However when they try to format your document for you they usually get it wrong, and it's extremely hard to get it to accept your way of doing things. The best word processor I ever used was Wordperfect 5.1. Everything could be don
    • by BobPaul ( 710574 ) *
      I'm pretty sure someone already did write a plugin. If I'm not mistaken, it was on Slashdot about a month ago. They wrote it, but just hadn't released it to the general public yet.

      If MS Office can open ODF then people with special needs can just use that to open the ODF file and everyone else can use whatever they want that supports ODF. That's the beauty of an open format.

      Massachusettes didn't pass a law saying all citizens and government employees of the state have to use OpenOffice, just that the state h
    • Re:Apples & Oranges (Score:4, Informative)

      by mspohr ( 589790 ) on Friday June 30, 2006 @04:56PM (#15639439)
      Duh!

      I just took a look at my Ubuntu installation and I can turn on "Assistive Technology Support" which includes a screen reader, screen magnifier, and on-screen keyboard.

      Of course, these tools work with all applications in the OS, not just the office suite. But is surely works for OpenOffice, etc.

      This bozo politician seems to be saying that Open Documents don't have these features but clearly they do.

    • by Citizen of Earth ( 569446 ) on Friday June 30, 2006 @05:01PM (#15639491)
      OpenDocument is a standard format for documents that anyone can use. It doesn't have anything to do with voice synthesizing or special screen readers. That's the editor/viewing application's responsibility or capability.

      Oh, please. You can't expect politicians to have any comprehension of the issues that they make world-changing decisions about.

    • Microsoft's eager to offer plug-ins for nearly any other proprietary file format.

      Actually, they pretty much only support legacy formats. You won't find modern WordPerfect or Lotus converters in there either.

      I think what the ODF Supporter miss is that right now there is basically zero demand for ODF from MS Office customers. Which is too bad, because ODF is a good idea, but a couple random state governments is not a real substantial customer base.

      If you walk up to Microsoft and demand support for Random Obsc
    • OpenDocument is a standard format for documents that anyone can use. It doesn't have anything to do with voice synthesizing or special screen readers. That's the editor/viewing application's responsibility or capability.

      You are witnessing ignorance when someone claims a format is insufficient because a suite of applications supports more functionality.

      No, he is making a valid point. Why change to a new standard when your current standard has better software which supports disabled people?

      I'm not say

  • by base3 ( 539820 ) on Friday June 30, 2006 @03:46PM (#15638798)
    Bet you'll see a contribution from the industry, perhaps laundered through an astroturf organization of some kind. Or maybe they've gone back to the old fashioned envelopes full of $100 bills.
  • by neonprimetime ( 528653 ) on Friday June 30, 2006 @03:47PM (#15638815) Homepage
    Microsoft Office has built-in help for people with disabilities, such as voice synthesizers, special screen readers and enlargers, Winske said. But he said OpenDocument-based products do not yet.

    Keyword being yet ... but when it does ... it will be standardized ... reusable ... and in the long run more useful than the crap MSFT slapped together.
    • by ottawanker ( 597020 ) on Friday June 30, 2006 @04:00PM (#15638931) Homepage
      .. also isn't the voice synthesizer and special screen reader and enlargers part of Windows, and not part of Microsoft Office? I have those programs installed, as they're part of the 'Accessibility Pack' or whatever?

      Check out the Windows XP Accessibility Resources [microsoft.com] website:

      Windows XP Accessibility Utilities:

              * Magnifier--a display utility that makes the computer screen more readable by creating a separate window that displays a magnified portion of the screen.
              * Narrator--a text-to-speech utility that reads what is displayed on the screen--the contents of the active window, menu options, or text that has been typed.
              * On-Screen Keyboard--displays a virtual keyboard on the computer screen that allows people to type data by using a pointing device or joystick.
    • ie is not a standards compliant browser yet... but when it is... it will be the most compliant browser on the market. better than firefox, opera, and even lynx... to that end, i recommend ie to everyone i know.
  • by gvc ( 167165 ) on Friday June 30, 2006 @03:48PM (#15638826)
    Campaign finance records show that those state officials who most vocally opposed the plan received campaign contributions from Microsoft lobbyists. For instance, state Sen. Marc Pacheco, who held hearings on the move to OpenDocument Format at which he voiced opposition to the plan, received $600 in campaign contributions from Microsoft lobbyists over the past three years.

        -- http://www.cio.com/archive/040106/opensource.html? action=print [cio.com]

    Sure, $600 is only a token, but its the thought that counts.
    • For a lowly state senator, $600 is a fairly decent sum of money.
    • $600? Since when do state senators cost more than Congressmen?
    • Question: Did microsoft contribute money to those that did not oppose the plan also?

      Further, why shouldn't someone contribute to those legislators that agree with your position> That's how all campaign finance works. You support those you agree with, either financially or with voting or both.
      • "Further, why shouldn't someone contribute to those legislators that agree with your position"

        Because then the politician places the interests of his contributors above the interests of the people he represents. This is why campaigns should be government funded--to remove the incentive to misuse your position (of course, some will still misuse it). Are there any members of Congress who actually represent their constituents anymore?
        • That is the stated reason that campaigns are government subsidized. But the effect is far from it. The effect of government subsidized campaigns has been to strengthen the two-party system by favoring incumbents. Since it so heavily stabilizes incumbent seats, one might surmise that that is the intended purpose.

          If people contribute to legislators that support their position, the legislators aren't bound to the contributors: they will put pro-contributor positions forth as a consequence of their already e
          • "If people contribute to legislators that support their position, the legislators aren't bound to the contributors: they will put pro-contributor positions forth as a consequence of their already existing motivations."

            It sounds like someone is living in an idealized fantasy world. Come back to reality! The main goal of a congressman is to simply keep getting reelected; they can't do that if they lose their financial backers, which is what would happen if they didn't actively promote the desires of those
      • A smart company gives money to both sides so they can own both of them.

    • ...Sen. Marc Pacheco, who held hearings on the move to OpenDocument Format at which he voiced opposition to the plan, received $600 in campaign contributions from Microsoft lobbyists...

      He can use that to buy a Linux license from SCO.
    • I didn't know that a state senator was going so cheaply these days. Maybe buying off an Alaskan state senator might be cheaper than a high-priced Eskimo hooker.
    • This is the token he willingly disclosed. If you assume that he fully disclosed what he received then it is a small amount. A certain Louisianna representative with the last name Jefferson, who had $90,000 of cash in his freezer, strikes me as a great example that not all elected officials disclose everything.
  • by CastrTroy ( 595695 ) on Friday June 30, 2006 @03:54PM (#15638875) Homepage
    My apologies for copying ideas of another poster I've seen post on this subject before, but here it goes. When it comes to reading computer file formats we are all disabled. No human can easily read a computer file format. That's why formats with actual standards are so important. So that we can all have equal access to the information stored within those files. Sure there may not be screen readers available right now, but if there is a market for them (and there is), then they will come. Especially if these formats come into wide use. Also, these accessibility tools will be much better because they know how to read the format. They don't have to struggle through and hack like crazy, just to make them work. They could even make an entire word processor specifically for the disabled, made to work with the abilities they have. A blind person doesn't need an interface like everyone else does. They need a completely different tool to compose documents than the rest of us. A standard format would make these tools easier to develop.

    Another note. I thought screen readers just read the text on your screen, regardless of what program is displaying them. I guess I was wrong about this, since Accessibility seems to be a big issue.
    • well, I thought that they could just make a reader... but you raise an interesting point throught your post. If a office suite was designed specifically for disabled people then it could freely use the open document format and get updates as soon as is required without having to wait for someone to hack the .doc... infact because it seems that opening any .doc in another program can be hit and miss it would make sense, from the point of view of disabled people to make the move to open standards and then wh
  • Chain of command (Score:4, Insightful)

    by truthsearch ( 249536 ) on Friday June 30, 2006 @04:01PM (#15638936) Homepage Journal
    The process... was driven by one individual in a very powerful position (Kriss) issuing a memo to an individual in a less powerful position (Quinn).

    Um, isn't that how everything gets done? A superior instructs a person lower-down on the totem pole to complete a task? In theory the person in the "very powerful position" is the person with the authority to make such decisions. So... what's the problem?
  • by peterkorn ( 712751 ) on Friday June 30, 2006 @04:01PM (#15638945)
    As I note in my blog (shameless plug) http://blogs.sun.com/roller/page/korn/20060629 [sun.com] increasingly folks in the disability community in Massachusetts see real accessibility benefits to this move to ODF; something that hasn't been picked up yet by mainstream media. See the recent Carroll Center blog: http://blog.carrolltech.org/archives/54 [carrolltech.org] and the earlier Carroll Center blog when folks were first becoming aware of ODF accessibility issues in Massachusetts http://blog.carrolltech.org/archives/51 [carrolltech.org]. Also the Oakdale Christian Fellowship in Charlotte NC makes similar points to the recent Carroll Center blog (see my writeup at: http://blogs.sun.com/roller/page/korn/20051116 [sun.com]).

    As others have noted in this thread, the mainstream media continues to repeat the falsehood that Microsoft is responsible for the accessibility of MS-Office (which is to say, the extent to which Windows assistive technology vendors have special-cased and reverse-engineering MS-Office). David Berlind's interview with Curtis Chong of the National Federation of the Blind make this very clear (see his blog at: http://blogs.zdnet.com/BTL/?p=2163 [zdnet.com]

  • by Anonymous Coward
    So because OpenDocument can't help everyone, it shouldn't help anyone? What kind of moronic politician -- sorry, I repeat myself -- thinks this is an intelligent decision?

    You know, Boston's "Big Dig" doesn't do me a bit of good here in the West, so why the hell should I pay for it? Oh yeah, I forgot, government is supposed to reflect the will of the majority, not just the vocal minority. We all make sacrifices -- and in this case, a very small one -- for the good of society as a whole.
    • So because OpenDocument can't help everyone, it shouldn't help anyone?

      Not only are they disregarding disabled citizens, they've also forgotten about the Mexican Immigrants, Gays & Lesbians, Athiests, African Americans, and the French. Damn it ... OpenDocument really isn't as open as I thought they were.
    • The Big Dig doesn't do me much good here (in Cambridge, MA) either.

      The dam thing is just a "better" way for people outside of the city
      to get from one side to the other. Now the Urban Ring would actually
      benefit the people whose construction it'd inconvenience, but that
      (like other things) would make too much sense.
  • by AJWM ( 19027 ) on Friday June 30, 2006 @04:05PM (#15638976) Homepage
    The report at news.com [com.com] also has this to say:
    In response, the office of Governor Mitt Romney issued a statement on Tuesday, saying that the executive branch would continue with the standards implementation plan. "Senator Pacheco is wrong on the facts and wrong on the law. We are committed to an open-standards approach that fully takes into account all accessibility, cost and statutory requirements," said Felix Browne, an administration spokesman.


    Pacheo has been on the wrong side of this for a while. I guess he figured it was time for another headline.
  • Disabled Citizens? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by deviantphil ( 543645 ) on Friday June 30, 2006 @04:07PM (#15638989)

    saying the state's IT division didn't have the authority to make that decision and has disregarded the needs of disabled citizens.

    How about poor citizens who can't afford the Microsoft Tax?

    • I wouldn't mind if MSs word processors were reasonably priced. I'm sorry they shouldn't be charging $300 for a product that has pretty much, from the home users point of view, remained the same since 1997. Especially when products with the same functionality can be gotten for free. Something around $50 would probably be a fair price. Something that most people can afford, and probably what most people would think it's worth. Oh, the other thing that bothers me about MS Office is that the format changes
  • Pacheco (Score:3, Informative)

    by pudge ( 3605 ) * <slashdot AT pudge DOT net> on Friday June 30, 2006 @04:08PM (#15639008) Homepage Journal
    Marc Pacheco used to be my Senator when I lived in MA. I didn't like him. He was entirely dismissive when we disagreed with him about a proposal to allow more dirt bikes in the state forest (he was ferit, we were aginit).
    • Re:Pacheco (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      That's because even then, he was concerned about the rights of the disabled to ride dirt bikes.
  • by Rob T Firefly ( 844560 ) on Friday June 30, 2006 @04:15PM (#15639063) Homepage Journal
    Here are just a few other standard, non-proprietary ideas with beginnings similar to ODF. If the distinguished Senator wishes to put his money where his mouth is, he'll have to avoid:
    • The Web - HTML is a non-proprietary file format that was developed without regard for every last accessibility option in mind. Who was thinking of screen readers in 1981?
    • In fact, the entire Internet - Who would have thought back when they came up with packet-switching networks in general and TCP in particular, that it would be used in the variety of ways we do now, and adapted to aid the disabled? No more use of digital networking devices for our esteemed Senator.
    • Television - When the first moving pictures were broadcast in the first half of the 20th Century, nobody had come up with a way for the hearing-impaired to more fully enjoy the content. Because it took until the 1970s to include sign-language translators in the lower corner of the screen (remember them?) and later develop closed captioning, modern TV should never have taken off like it did, and we should have fully investigated more proprietary standards than what was used. Boycott it all.
    • In fact, Faraday and his ilk weren't considering any of this when they were poking around the EM spectrum in the 19th century, so the Senator should avoid wireless transmissions entirely. No radio, no mobile phone, no ordering burgers through the drive-in speaker.
    • Speaking of driving, the inconsiderate cave person who developed the wheel never even bothered to take into account how to properly implement his or her creation in a wheelchair for the physically challenged. It took ages (literally!) before such a solution was put into practice. Screw the damned inconsiderate neolithics and their crappy invention. No wheels.
    • The Web - HTML is a non-proprietary file format that was developed without regard for every last accessibility option in mind. Who was thinking of screen readers in 1981?

      And that's complete and utter bullshit brought on by looking at too much flash.
      The web was designed as the PERFECT accessible format. The user specifies the fonts, the size, the colors, hell even the wrapping.
      Do you know how much that pisses off multimedia designer types? Hence the web we have now. HTML became PDF, and that wasn't enough

    • The Web - HTML [...] Who was thinking of screen readers in 1981?


      Nitpick: I thought the web was about a decade younger than that. 1981 was back when the IETF was nailing down many core features of the basic internet, and the key user-level apps were email (SMTP was created in 1981, according to what I can glean from the RFC index), telnet and ftp. At that time, even venerable NNTP was 5 years away from publication.
  • ... to figure out which politicians in Massachusetts are for sale.
  • Another MA state senator has recently voiced his opposition to the state endorsement of an Open Document format, decrying its lack of neurotransmitter support for people who cannot see, hear, touch, taste, or feel.

    Seriously though, even though we all know the "do it for the disabled" is a hoax in this case, when is the "lowest common denominator" mentality just too ridiculous? Law of diminishing returns... spend 20% of your resources to meet the needs of 80% of the people. Spend 80% of your resources to

    • That isn't exactly useful rhetoric. The fact is that using open formats has nothing to do with accessibility as there are third party plugins around in MS Office itself to read and write these standardized formats. Accessibility is just a last ditch talking point of Microsoft's marketing department to delay the mass exodus.
  • by popo ( 107611 ) on Friday June 30, 2006 @04:27PM (#15639164) Homepage

    To say that Opensource programs don't offer benefits to handicapped people -- a group who continuously gets short shrift when it comes to state and government budgeting -- is a little ironic.

    Why not transfer the cost savings of switching from MS Office to OO.org to a budget for handicapped services. I'm sure the handicapped population would be more than happy with that.

  • by kthejoker ( 931838 ) on Friday June 30, 2006 @04:36PM (#15639246)
    As an employee of a state's executive branch, I can assure you that for us, cost is far and away the most important aspect in making any sort of A vs B comparison. Our entire system is driven by the lowest bidder. (And if you save $50 on something you don't care about, that means you get to spend $50 extra on something you do. Governors are very, VERY specific as to what they do and don't care about.)

    And ODF = free.

    In fact, I'm fairly certain that if Massachusetts wanted to hire 5-10 developers to create a program to deal with ODFs in a disability-accessible manner, it still wouldn't cost as much as using proprietary software.
    • And ODF = free.
      Technically, ODF is just a file format. The reader and writer can be a cost. In the form of OpenOffice or any other of the F/OSS that can read/write it, it's free.

      That said, if they were to convert to OOo, there would be a training cost for both end users and IT. I think, this is the main reason why MS will not release a plug-in. If they do, then there is MUCH less cost in associated to going to OOo. The transition cost is pretty much the only barrier they have right now to prevent moving
  • by SQLz ( 564901 ) on Friday June 30, 2006 @04:37PM (#15639257) Homepage Journal
    Marc didn't give a crap till MS made it worth his time with a couple mil in free licenses.
  • by renard ( 94190 ) on Friday June 30, 2006 @04:46PM (#15639343)
    An anonymous reader writes to mention a ZDNet article on Massachusetts senator Marc Pacheco's OpenDocument study....

    "Massachusetts Senator" == (Edward "Ted" Kennedy || John Kerry)

    Marc Pacheco is a "Massachusetts State Senator", i.e. one of 40 members of the upper house of the bicameral Massachusetts state legislature.

    Big difference.

  • by Nom du Keyboard ( 633989 ) on Friday June 30, 2006 @05:09PM (#15639545)
    The process, quite frankly, was driven by one individual in a very powerful position (Kriss) issuing a memo to an individual in a less powerful position (Quinn).

    Seems to me that Senator Pacheco wanted to make the decision himself -- just in the opposite direction!

    And this whole more powerful/less powerful discussion sounds like an overdose of Politically Correct thinking, which makes him a danger as anybody's senator.

  • Besides this guy's confusion of data format versus application as others have mentioned, why does he think that all disabled people (and abled people for that matter) have $399USD kicking around for a copy of Microsoft Office? Bizarre.
    • Besides this guy's confusion of data format versus application as others have mentioned, why does he think that all disabled people (and abled people for that matter) have $399USD kicking around for a copy of Microsoft Office? Bizarre.

      Sigh, I was going to use the Bush Sr. & the grocery store ancecdote here but Snopes [snopes.com] says it's not what it's cracked up to be.

      Guess I'll have to fall back to the standard: Because he's a clueless pratt who just got a $30M 'donation' to the state education system by MS - s

  • I'm disabled... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CptPicard ( 680154 ) on Friday June 30, 2006 @05:53PM (#15639826)
    ... and although my own disability doesn't restrict my computer use in any way, I still find this kind of ideological abuse totally disgusting. Open standards are, in the end, beneficial for access by everybody using any chosen access means. This includes not only the disabled, but everyone else as well. It is immaterial that things like screen readers may not exist yet.. they can be produced, and will be, if the specs are available. Anybody with even slight programming experience will know that in this case existing software is probably easy to modify to just read the new format into the program's internal representation. Contrast this with whatever limited access proprietary formats' owners choose to grant -- and to whom -- in order to look good.

    Not to mention these same guys at this end of the political spectrum in general typically won't give a shit about disabled people's rights in anything, as mostly, we're just "bad for the economy". Apparently we can still be "useful" in some situations.

    They should just speak for themselves and not get all caring and compassionate all of a sudden when it serves their own interest.
  • Without a doubt Microsoft is a for-profit company, good or evil being the decision of the individual consumer.
    Is Microsoft Office (to include its file formats) an open standard. No, however they are a 'de facto standard'.
    ODF while an open standard, true will gain more users overtime, but to simply dismiss proprietory software companies
    simply because they won't 'open' their standards is foolish. The question of how Microsoft gained their 'de facto' standard,
    I'll leave to others, I simply look at it li
    • You don't have to "dismiss a Microsoft solution". Microsoft just has to write an import/export code for ODF. It will probably take them just one day. Everybody here admits that MSWord is probably the most capable and powerful program and Microsoft would probably lose nothing by doing this except for lock-in.

      Your own post says "I've never had a problem getting other document formats to work in Word or any other MS application". Despite this, Microsoft is trying their hardest to make sure you have a "problem"
  • his web page is here:

    http://www.mass.gov/legis/member/mrp0.htm [mass.gov]

    his e-mail address is:

    Marc.Pacheco@state.ma.us

    let this corrupt little vermin know what you think of him.

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