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Australian Government Denies Microsoft Bias In OOXML Choice

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the have-you-never-heard-of-coincidence dept.

Australia 193

An anonymous reader writes "It looks like the Australian Government is not taking criticism of its decision to mandate Microsoft's Office Open XML standard lying down. 'The policy is vendor-neutral which allows its principles and standards to be used across any platform,' they said this week. Yup ... except for the fact that almost no other office suite apart from Microsoft Office supports writing to the standard. And as for Firefox? Turns out 96 percent of Australian Government desktops use Internet Explorer. Looks like bureaucracy is winning here."

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I want to believe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34948604)

It must be a conspiracy!

Re:I want to believe (2, Insightful)

dwarfsoft (461760) | more than 3 years ago | (#34948620)

96% of desktops use IE6 and thats because most users are blocked from installing their own apps. Upgrades to IE are rare due to this breaking old web code that they rely on. This is less malice or conspiracy and more stagnancy than anything else.

Re:I want to believe (2)

mjwx (966435) | more than 3 years ago | (#34948756)

96% of desktops use IE6 and thats because most users are blocked from installing their own apps. Upgrades to IE are rare due to this breaking old web code that they rely on. This is less malice or conspiracy and more stagnancy than anything else.

That and retraining government employees is incredibly difficult.

Ironic seeing as in the DPS (Dreaded Private Sector) workers love free training as we can ask for more money, get a free lunch and a 3-5 day semi-holiday (when was the last training session you had that went past 4 PM).

Re:I want to believe (1)

dwarfsoft (461760) | more than 3 years ago | (#34948860)

When I was in the Public Sector I LOVED training... it meant going out of town, getting paid accommodation, meal allowance, party nights, and general fun (mind you, we did have good funding for our department)

In the Private Sector you only get training if you jump up and down and make yourself loud enough. Training gets sparingly allocated because private organisations like to hoard their monies wherever they can.

Re:I want to believe (1)

mjwx (966435) | more than 3 years ago | (#34949080)

In the Private Sector you only get training if you jump up and down and make yourself loud enough. Training gets sparingly allocated because private organisations like to hoard their monies wherever they can.

Not in IT, well most IT orgs in OZ, the trick is to get in before the training budget is used up. If your own company provides the training it's even easier. I've been on a few training courses that had nothing to do with sys/net admin simply because I asked and we ran the courses ourselves.

Re:I want to believe (1)

dwarfsoft (461760) | more than 3 years ago | (#34949278)

Well, I recently moved to a large multi-national. So I am awaiting to see what training perks I can get in a Large Private Sector company. I've worked in small and medium sized companies before as well as large government depts, so I've spoken from those experiences.

Re:I want to believe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34948918)

Ironic seeing as in the DPS (Dreaded Private Sector) workers love free training as we can ask for more money, get a free lunch and a 3-5 day semi-holiday (when was the last training session you had that went past 4 PM).

Sort of like the public sector. Or at least when I worked in it. I never actually had an employer since make good on the training offer. Which is really shitty, because I never really did have the flexibility in the private sector that I had in the public sector either.

(In australia, where this story is about).

I'd love to go back to public, the cut-throat dog eats dog nonsense that makes up private sector life gets me down sometimes. Could do without the bureacracy of govt and large companies though, but I guess its part of the tradeoff.

Re:I want to believe (1)

crafty.munchkin (1220528) | more than 3 years ago | (#34948994)

Ironic seeing as in the DPS (Dreaded Private Sector) workers love free training as we can ask for more money, get a free lunch and a 3-5 day semi-holiday (when was the last training session you had that went past 4 PM).

I've never had a private sector employer send me on a training course, or even reimburse me for one i've sent myself on. And on the note of training sessions going past 4pm, the Novell, VMware and EMC courses I've been on over the last 4 years have all gone past 5pm on several days.

Re:I want to believe (1)

mjwx (966435) | more than 3 years ago | (#34949042)

I've never had a private sector employer send me on a training course, or even reimburse me for one i've sent myself on. And on the note of training sessions going past 4pm, the Novell, VMware and EMC courses I've been on over the last 4 years have all gone past 5pm on several days.

Either you and the AC are unlucky or I'm quite lucky.

Three out of three IT employers in the last 5 years have sent me on training courses. Especially vendor training that lets the company get special deals. Software dev houses love to push their staff into MCP's in my experience, hardware vendors push for resellers to have staff indoctrinated^W trained in their products.

Never been on a Novell or EMC course, but MS, Red Hat and Vmware always went 9-4 unless you were having trouble, any competent training provider will always add extra time in for students who struggle.

Re:I want to believe (1)

aussie_a (778472) | more than 3 years ago | (#34949388)

Three out of three IT employers in the last 5 years have sent me on training courses

Fat lot of good it did them. They trained you up and then you left shortly afterwards.

Re:I want to believe (1)

Cwix (1671282) | more than 3 years ago | (#34949134)

People need training to use firefox?

Re:I want to believe (2)

crafty.munchkin (1220528) | more than 3 years ago | (#34948760)

Chris is right, at the government department I just left, installing apps wasn't an option, but we did at least provide firefox and IEtab for the users. but even still, most of them used IE anyway, due to compatibility with external department's websites. the grapevine has told me that the department is going to be moving all servers away from Novell SLES10/11 and OES2 to Microsoft software in a cost-reduction exercise... looks like I got out just in time!

Re:I want to believe (1)

dwarfsoft (461760) | more than 3 years ago | (#34948838)

I just bailed from one that said the same... but they have been saying that for years. The projects never deliver. The fact that the "new upgraded systems" to replace these outdated websites are still stuck in the same project loops that plague the public sector means government workers are left using outdated software to access outdated systems.

Re:I want to believe (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34948962)

I hear ya man. I worked at uni that went from an awesomely diverse mix of mac, pcs, linux & unix desktops to a nearly total microsoft takeover. What orgs like microsoft , dell, oracle & cisco tend to do is force universities to sign exclusivity contracts that stop them from making purchases from competitors. I mean sure cisco stuff is great, but when we want to just stick a 4 port in the photocopier room to make a little room for an extra terminal, it sucks having the dept told we cant spend $80 on a little d-link switch and instead had to blow hundreds on some overpriced cisco thing that was far overspecced for our needs because some prick in a suit and no idea of the implications signed an exclusivity contract. Even worse when our old 3COM router rack was forced to be dismantled and replaced with a hideously expensive cisco thing because the compliance officer took a shit when he discovered the perfectly reliable rack of unix+3com gear.

I felt really bad for the physics + chem guys who where getting denied unix workstations to run software that could ONLY run on unix because of these deals. I know at one point the dept actually threatened to unplug from the network and get a private fibre link to completely dissociate themselves from the university. Watching lawyers INTERNALLY battle is bizzare.

And yeah, we knew it was all over when our beautifully functional Solaris mail servers where replaced with exchange crap , requiring a grand total of 2x solaris servers servicing 10K+ students perfectly with a rack of about 10 exchange servers that NEVER where able to cope with the load. What a waste of good money.

And yeah, I knew my time was up when I was told my beloved Netware servers time was up. Good night sweet prince and hello private industry. Not sure I made the right decision though.

Re:I want to believe (1)

DeathElk (883654) | more than 3 years ago | (#34949020)

UniNSW by any chance?

Re:I want to believe (5, Interesting)

anomaly256 (1243020) | more than 3 years ago | (#34950018)

Time and again I've come up against the same thing. And every time I either say 'No' or 'Goodbye'. Watching the chaos when a large AD deployment gets munged and domain controllers start refusing to sync with each other, or exchange hits some arbitrary artificial limit that some dick thought was a good default that's impossible to change without a 8000 character powershell oneliner, or a mandatory microsoft security update fucks the tcp stack on a headless machine requiring a rollback or total removal-then-reinstall of the network drivers in a colo you can't get to, I've vowed never to administer microsoft shit ever again, no matter what they want to pay me to do it. The price to my health from dealing with users screaming all day (not to mention the self loathing that comes from knowing you put up with perfectly functioning and reliable setups being replaced by this shit) isn't justified by *any* paycheque. Never regretted leaving those places. And last I heard every single one of them have either gone bust when their customers got sick of services dying all the time and then being constantly charged for techs to fix things and the only knowledgeable techs leaving like rats from a sinking ship, or are currently in litigation because of introducing those things by switching to microsoft and will go bust very soon. There's a reason microsoft is struggling right now and it's a real shame because they do have *some* good things. Windows 7 is actually pretty sweet in my opinion. C# is a fun language and the latest visual studio still beats eclipse, monodevelop and netbeans hands-down (for the languages it supports at least). But SBS? Exchange? Sharepoint? IIS? No damn way. We really need businesses to get past this brain-damaged notion that Microsoft's niche is the enterprise.

No bias at all. (4, Interesting)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 3 years ago | (#34948618)

The others could support the standard. Or they could eat cake.

What kind of standard is a standard if nobody but a single vendor supports it? Moreover, what kind of "openness" is it if the single vendor is also the issuer of the standard?

No bias, my gluteus maximus...

Re:No bias at all. (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34948652)

WebM? A single vendor supports it and the FSF came out today in support of it.

Re:No bias at all. (4, Informative)

mrnobo1024 (464702) | more than 3 years ago | (#34948702)

You call this [webmproject.org] a "single vendor"?

Re:No bias at all. (4, Informative)

Jason Earl (1894) | more than 3 years ago | (#34948810)

This just goes to show that open standards are not enough to provide for competition when it comes to software procurement. Microsoft has created a standard (of sorts) and it has even managed to ram it through the ISO. This does not, however, guarantee any actual interoperability. In point of fact there are precisely zero applications that implement the ISO standard. Even Microsoft fails in this regard.

Australia would have been better off to standardize on the old binary file formats. These are at least fairly well understood, and Microsoft is in no hurry to break backwards compatibility on these legacy formats.

WebM, on the other hand, is not really a standard at all. At beast it is a file format that Google hopes will become a de-facto standard. The difference, of course, is that Google does provide source code that will read and write the format. In the end this is clearly more useful in providing true interoperability. A year from now you probably won't be able to buy a device (with a screen anyway) that won't play WebM files, and some will probably record in the format as well. Meanwhile reading Word documents will still be the crapshoot that it is today. If you have the exact same version of the software, with the same fonts, and the same print driver you might (theoretically) get the same print output as the person that created the document.

Re:No bias at all. (1)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 3 years ago | (#34948914)

It's defined by a single entity, but it is being supported by by Google, Mozilla, ffmpeg, Opera, and more.

It's not really a 'Standard' (4, Informative)

rsilvergun (571051) | more than 3 years ago | (#34948980)

At least, that's why I've heard. The issue is that the documents Microsoft Office makes don't confirm to the OOXML standard. Programs that perfectly implement the OOXML standard can't ready documents created by MS-Word.

Re:No bias at all. (1)

cbope (130292) | more than 3 years ago | (#34949762)

What kind of standard is a standard if nobody but a single vendor supports it?

Around here, it's called a Microsoft standard...

Re:No bias at all. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34950050)

"what kind of "openness" is it if the single vendor is also the issuer of the standard?"

==> Openness to security flaws \o/

In other news... (3, Informative)

Compaqt (1758360) | more than 3 years ago | (#34948632)

US Government denies Halliburton bias in mandating no-bid KBR contracts [wikipedia.org] .

black is white (3, Insightful)

bzipitidoo (647217) | more than 3 years ago | (#34949298)

OOXML is vendor neutral. Nixon is not a crook. Gorbachev has been removed from his position due to illness. Clinton did not have sexual relations with that woman. Diebold voting machines were validated. AIG is a financially sound company. No oil is leaking from BP's well. Kim Jong Il's birth was heralded by the appearance of a double rainbow over the mountain and a new star in the heavens.

Awfully common. I've seen the Big Lie used so often that we've gotten wise to it. I wonder how such whoppers can still work at all. Mostly it just makes the teller look brutishly stupid. The more obvious it is, the stupider they look. So, Australian Govt, are you too stupid to feel embarrassed about this? Are your flunkies and subjects all supposed to pretend to be too stupid to notice, so that you don't punish them?

I suppose this explains why... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34948636)

Mr. Assange was able to easily hack into the AUS gov's servers

Re:I suppose this explains why... (1)

mug funky (910186) | more than 3 years ago | (#34948888)

the patch for that attack is due to be deployed in 3 months

Choice (-1, Troll)

js3 (319268) | more than 3 years ago | (#34948644)

if that's what the Australian government wants, who are you to complain? Haven't other governments mandated use of other open source software? what did we turn into effing communists? let them use what they want.

Re:Choice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34948676)

js3 in 1940: "If the German government wants to kill Jews, who are you to complain? Haven't other governments mandated non-killing of Jews? Let them do what they want."

Re:Choice (2)

biryokumaru (822262) | more than 3 years ago | (#34948720)

I never realized it was our high moral standard that brought us into that war, and not simply an attack on our soil.

Re:Choice (1)

Missing.Matter (1845576) | more than 3 years ago | (#34948740)

Aaaaaaaaand Godwined.

Re:Choice (0)

YoshiDan (1834392) | more than 3 years ago | (#34948806)

OMG the big bad government mandated that all internal documents have to be in a common format that is used by the majority of the corporate world! OHNOES the evil bastards! This is an outrage!

Re:Choice (2)

0123456 (636235) | more than 3 years ago | (#34948916)

OMG the big bad government mandated that all internal documents have to be in a common format that is used by the majority of the corporate world!

LOL.

Every time someone sends me a .docx file at work I'm glad I run Linux with Open Office because the Windows PCs all have Office 2000 so they can't read it.

Re:Choice (-1, Troll)

YoshiDan (1834392) | more than 3 years ago | (#34948988)

Oh please. Most offices I've been in run 2003 or higher. Office 2003 supports docx via a compatibility update that was released for it after Office 2007 came out.

So you can read docx files in Open Office? Interesting how everyone here is carrying on that no other office suites support these formats.

The freetards are all alike. If it was the other way around and the government had mandated an Open Source format/application to be the only thing allowed they'd all be cheering. Sounds like a double standard to me.

Re:Choice (1)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 3 years ago | (#34949022)

So you can read docx files in Open Office? Interesting how everyone here is carrying on that no other office suites support these formats.

It'll read it, for the most part, and may even write it now, but there are formatting issues. It doesn't have certifiable support for the format, so using it would technically be breaking the rules.

Re:Choice (2)

AHuxley (892839) | more than 3 years ago | (#34948934)

While telling the world about been "vendor-neutral".
If they wanted MS only, why not do a local version of the "no bid contract" and then it would all be fine.

How many implementations? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34948650)

Does any vendor properly implement the standard? Unless you have 2 vendors that do an honest attempt to implement it then I would say it isn't a viable standard.

Re:How many implementations? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34949056)

Does any vendor properly implement the standard? Unless you have 2 vendors that do an honest attempt to implement it then I would say it isn't a viable standard.

The standard is published, anyone can implement, the fact that they choose not to doesn't make it not a standard. FOSS, Open Source, Freedom...all that rhetoric... sounds more like 'it's only a standard if it's developed by our community, not if it's by someone we don't like'

Standards (1)

Wolfling1 (1808594) | more than 3 years ago | (#34948656)

The nice thing about Standards is that there are so many to choose from.

Re:Standards (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34948992)

I wonder if you are serious (MS supporter), or are pointing out the irony (non-MS supporter). Me? I wish there were more standards too. I mean, when I buy a DVD, there is only +R and -R. What about /R, *R, ==R, !=R? I want to use those standards too!

Why should they change? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34948688)

Microsoft Office works. The employees already know Microsoft Office. They are a western government, ie. not troubled financially, with technologically illiterate employees. Such organizations should stick with technology that works and is easy to transition to. Maybe a good, solid FOSS Office suite will emerge in several years, but for now, there is nothing that can beat Microsoft Office.

Re:Why should they change? (4, Informative)

Techman83 (949264) | more than 3 years ago | (#34948812)

Unfortunately that's not the case. Office 2007 requires significant pain for the end user and also doesn't support OOXML all that well. In face a 1.3mb template file is enough to cause 100% cpu load, where as libre office handles the same file without any issues. A number of our staff voluntarily use Libre Office and we deploy it on our rental equipment as we cant justify the license cost of MS Office to open the simple excel files our survey software generates.

Re:Why should they change? (4, Informative)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 3 years ago | (#34948848)

This isn't about the particular document creation software. It's about the notion that a clean room reimplementation of the document specs could be done without any knowledge of the originating software. This certainly can be done with ODF, because, though it is hardly perfect, has relatively straightforward specs.

OOXML, on the other hand, by even the most generous description, is a fucking mess. Yes, I'm sure sufficiently competent programmers could probably get the data and a good chunk of the formatting out of a docx file, the spec makes that quite difficult, and there are certainly cases, particularly since Microsoft has yet itself to create any software that in fact implements the ECMA version of OOXML.

No matter what way you cut it, from the basic position that adopting an open document standard should assure the ability to produce software to decode the document, years, even decades into the future, even if the original software is lost or no longer runs on any extant hardware, choosing OOXML over ODF is a sign of either intense stupidity on the part of the Australian government, or more likely that Microsoft and/or its Business Partners have had undue influence on the choosing of an open document standard. From a technical perspective, OOXML is a laughable joke.

Re:Why should they change? (3)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 3 years ago | (#34948878)

Sorry, meant ISO version, not ECMA version, but they're both crap. OOXML is a bad spec, so bad not even Microsoft implements it the way they have submitted it to any standards body.

Re:Why should they change? (1, Interesting)

man_of_mr_e (217855) | more than 3 years ago | (#34949182)

I'm curious. How do you plan to create a clean-room implementation of an interoperable ODF using office suite when ODF doesn't specify things as important as how spreadsheet formulas are specified?

Re:Why should they change? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34949854)

Very old FUD. Come back later. http://lwn.net/Articles/410387/

And yes it took time because there are different partener involved in the definition and they try to do it right (exactly the opposite of Microsoft OOXML qhich does have formula but with plenty of error found during the ISO process).

Re:Why should they change? (2)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 3 years ago | (#34948978)

Microsoft 2007+ supports ODF (or so they say). Departments could continue pouring money down that particular hole if they wanted to, but the ones with tighter budgets could decide for themselves whether LibreOffice/OpenOffice or Calligra were good enough for their needs.

Regarding IE (5, Interesting)

atomicbutterfly (1979388) | more than 3 years ago | (#34948694)

I work for a major Australian Government department. The summary comment about how "96 percent of Australian Government desktops use Internet Explorer" should not be a surprise to anyone - it's the mandated platform for nearly all corporations these days, at least here and in the US. If Firefox had some OFFICIAL support for things like Group Policies and MSI package deployment (and I'm not referring to those hacks and repackaged releases you can find at certain places on the net), then maybe there would be an increase in the level of corporate uptake of the browser. As an engineer and not a lowly secretary for example, I'm able to have both Firefox and IE on the same machine. Shit I can have nearly anything on my computer, so long as it's legal of course (thank goodness for open-source). There was a lot of tweaking to get Firefox to accept NTLM authentication which is normally passed through into IE automatically (hence a lot of poking about with the network.automatic-ntlm-auth.* settings in about:config), but it works quite well in the end except for some peculiar pages.

My point is that whoever wrote the summary has probably never worked in the IT department of a company which has to suppose thousands of desktops. There's a reason Active Directory and by extension Group Policy is so useful, and hence why IE is a standard on said desktops, and it ain't about bureaucracy. As for Microsoft's Open Office XML... well, we apparently use a TON of .doc files where a nice PDF would have been more appropriate, so a cultural shift to more open standards was never going to happen quickly anyway.

Re:Regarding IE (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34948736)

bureaucracy is a large organization characterized by hierarchy, fixed rules, impersonal relationships, rigid adherence to procedures, and a highly specialized division of labor.

- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bureaucracy

There's a reason Active Directory and by extension Group Policy is so useful, and hence why IE is a standard on said desktops, and it ain't about bureaucracy

Actually, it sounds like IE is a standard *precisely* because of bureaucracy, specifically because it is the easiest to browser to enforce/support a bureaucracy.

Re:Regarding IE (2)

atomicbutterfly (1979388) | more than 3 years ago | (#34948768)

Actually, it sounds like IE is a standard *precisely* because of bureaucracy, specifically because it is the easiest to browser to enforce/support a bureaucracy.

Fair point. I was mostly addressing the attitude presented in the summary that the decision to stick with IE was less for technical reasons and more because of Governmental stubbornness. The latter probably does still have something to do with it, but I doubt it's the main reason, and expending the share of IE to any alternative browser shouldn't be that surprising especially in a western Government.

Re:Regarding IE (4, Interesting)

domatic (1128127) | more than 3 years ago | (#34948744)

I've been managing Firefox through Active Directory for a couple of years now with FirefoxADM.

http://sourceforge.net/projects/firefoxadm/ [sourceforge.net]

It doesn't require a strange build of firefox. I manage proxy settings for the domain with the ADM templates and update Firefox on the clients with standard mozilla.com builds of Firefox. I don't know if it is OFFICIAL enough for you but it has proven effective here in letting Firefox work just as transparently as IE with AD and our proxies.

Re:Regarding IE (3, Interesting)

atomicbutterfly (1979388) | more than 3 years ago | (#34948814)

Looks nice, but it would never pass muster with those who set IT policy unfortunately. From the looks of it, it doesn't seem to be an officially authorized, Mozilla-endorsed set of templates for which Mozilla themselves can be held responsible if something fucks up (no need to mention the fallacy of believing this means anything in practice of course, but the lawmakers like to know they can shift the blame to someone). I imagine the software probably works quite well, however the 3rd-party nature of it is still a strike against it.

In the end, it's also yet another thing IT need to support which won't have a measurable improvement over something that's already built into the system, integrated and updated using pre-existing infrastructure with a very large amount of knowledgebase to fall back on. Governments are rather boring to work with when it comes to IT. :)

Re:Regarding IE (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34949188)

How do you blame Mozilla? I'm not seeing it. The same is true for Microsoft's software. You have zero warranty for any particular purpose according to the EUL.You are making excuses rather than bringing it up to your superiors in charge of IT policy.

Re:Regarding IE (1)

Techman83 (949264) | more than 3 years ago | (#34948834)

Indeed there is aFirefox MSI [frontmotion.com] . We deploy that + ietab plus to get around any apps that don't like Firefox (fewer these days, only thing we use it for now is Exchange Web mail 2007, being that the full featured version only works in IE). We deploy to 100's of desktops without any issues.

Re:Regarding IE (2)

atomicbutterfly (1979388) | more than 3 years ago | (#34948852)

Like I said to another poster though, whatever these 3rd-party mechanisms are to integrated with Windows Domains better, they're not from Mozilla. Frankly I don't even think IT even cares about such matters. They have a corporate firewall, carefully designed group policies, and so on. IE 7+ has tabs, and with the upcoming switch to Windows 7 will also have a sandbox for IE, which none of the other browsers even have. You'd have to find a reason for those guys to get off their arses and support Firefox to the level that IE is, and I guarantee you they won't, because there's not enough justification for the effort. We're already locked into Windows/Microsoft.

Re:Regarding IE (2)

Techman83 (949264) | more than 3 years ago | (#34948896)

I found enough good reasons to make our Win7 image to have a prominent Firefox icon, with IE buried in the menus. People can use either, but most go with the path of least resistance, in this case it will be Firefox. It's actually really easy to manage the things most IT departments need to manage. I should know, that's what I do day in, day out.

Re:Regarding IE (1)

deniable (76198) | more than 3 years ago | (#34948936)

It's often not the desktop IT that blocks it but the back-end 'Intranet Application' types. FF has reach the point where we can treat it like our other applications (with help) but it can't render some of the horrible, old and expensive back-ends. IT does care in a lot of places. We don't want to be stuck with IE either.

Death-throws of IE6 (2)

aussie_a (778472) | more than 3 years ago | (#34949440)

You'd have to find a reason for those guys to get off their arses and support Firefox to the level that IE is

As someone who is "one of those guys" I take issue with this. The reason we use IE still is due to legacy programs requiring IE6. Now I hate IE6 more than anyone else in my building. As someone who has spent years developing websites, I know the terror of IE6. But I've had it explained to me that we can support 1 browser with our resources (fortunately the webteam aren't required to follow this policy for the external websites). It can be either IE or Firefox. Due to the fact we must support IE6 only programs, we must support IE.

The vendor has finally released upgrades that don't require IE6, they don't make these upgrades available for free. And even then, companies or government agencies moving to the latest greatest program immediately is a recipe for disaster. Instead its often better to remain a version or two behind the latest developments, in order to minimise the number of bugs that will affect the system. Meanwhile other departments are asking us to invest in these other amazing systems, that have IE as a requirement. But its all good, because we already use IE. Right?

So give IT a bigger budget with more staff members and more control over what programs are purchased, and I'm sure they'd be happy to support Firefox. Most of them are probably geeks, so they probably use Firefox when at home anyway.

Re:Death-throws of IE6 (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34949932)

I remember having a conversation around ten years ago with some others in the IT department about what the supported browser going forward should be. I told them flat-out that standardising on IE was a bad idea, because we had a mix of Windows, Mac, Linux and Solaris desktops. They did. Now I just sit back and laugh at them trying to dig their way out of the hole they got into.

Re:Regarding IE (0)

jinushaun (397145) | more than 3 years ago | (#34948890)

I wish I had points to vote this up.

Slashdot likes to paint this as an organisation in love with everything MS. I'm more pragmatic and see it an organisation maintaining the status quo. Everyone already knows how to use Office, documents are already produced in Office formats, etc. It would cost them a non-trivial amount of time and money (read: a lot) to move to an open source system just to satisfy some religious debate about open v closed source products. Even if they convert to ODF internally, they still have to go through the hassle of converting everything to Office formats anyway when it comes time to share files externally. The Office formats are the lingua franca of information exchange. Everyone has to support that. Even MS has to keep supporting .doc along side .docx.

Of course, the other side to that argument is that it is relative small short term cost for huge long term savings. Office is expensive and it costs a lot to maintain the status quo.

Re:Regarding IE (4, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 3 years ago | (#34948998)

The real cost will be felt in fifty years, decades after Microsoft has abandoned Word 97-2003 formats, or maybe there's no Microsoft at all, and someone has to reverse engineer what really is a fucking terrible document standard.

Re:Regarding IE (1)

deniable (76198) | more than 3 years ago | (#34948910)

We support Firefox here for anyone who asks for it, using an unofficial version that supports GPOs for install and configuration. We had a fight to deploy IE7 and 8 because our finance and HR are outsourced to another government department with a lot of Oracle junk that required IE6. Strangely enough Firefox 2 did a better job with it than IE7 until last year's updates. Bottom line, IE6 sticks around because of the back-ends rather than GPO convenience.

Re:Regarding IE (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34948944)

Re:Regarding IE (1)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 3 years ago | (#34949202)

And how do you tell several hundred machines to download it? Have a custom metapackage on a private repo?

Re:Regarding IE (2)

TwistedPants (847858) | more than 3 years ago | (#34949066)

Re:Regarding IE (1)

gblues (90260) | more than 3 years ago | (#34949250)

Holy shit, that goes back to 2004. 7 years. In the time it's taken to get anywhere on it, two major versions of Windows have been released. It's like the Duke Nukem Forever of FireFox bugs.

Re:Regarding IE (1)

Malc (1751) | more than 3 years ago | (#34949290)

Huh? When was NTLM last a problem in a Mozilla browser?

Come on, that's a bit weak.

Re:Regarding IE (1)

eulernet (1132389) | more than 3 years ago | (#34949936)

The summary comment about how "96 percent of Australian Government desktops use Internet Explorer" should not be a surprise to anyone - it's the mandated platform for nearly all corporations these days, at least here and in the US.

Yes, but which version of IE is really used ?
IE6, IE7 or IE8 ?

Not a real government (1)

Dr. Hellno (1159307) | more than 3 years ago | (#34948728)

Every Australian I've ever encountered on the internet recognizes that their government is a perverse congress of clowns and anencephalic monsters. Why bother with stories discussing what they think? While I don't support censoring their speech (a charity they refuse to repay in kind), I do think that their manic ramblings deserve the same global attention as a loud fart in a third-grade classroom in Pawtucket

Re:Not a real government (1)

bmo (77928) | more than 3 years ago | (#34949170)

I do think that their manic ramblings deserve the same global attention as a loud fart in a third-grade classroom in Central Falls.

Fixed.

Re:Not a real government (1)

catmistake (814204) | more than 3 years ago | (#34949528)

I had been given a different impression of their government. It sounded like they did some things correct. For example, in the US, when, say, a bridge is built and it's determined a toll is needed to pay for the bridge for ten years, that toll remains forever. In AU, once they pay for the bridge, the tolls go away. It sounded like their government was more honest and didn't attempt to hang on to revenue generation that was unfounded. I believe Microsoft technologies can be hardened and secure at the desktop level, and Active Directory is simply the best thing to come out of Redmond, Exchange a distant second, and there seem to be few technologies that can duplicate all it's functionality. However, to say that switching to Windows in the data center is a money saving decision is ridiculously short sighted. Just babysitting a Windows Server can cost a small fortune in IT hours alone, forgetting for a second that every few years Microsoft will want you to upgrade software and licensing, without really adding any functionality, reliability or security (due to backwards compatibility, the flaws will remain). To hear about this is somewhat disconcerting to me, and I wonder what really happened here. It's so painfully obvious that in the data center that Linux or a BSD (Free, Net or Open) is quite obviously far more secure, far more stable (no Windows rot), and far less expensive than Microsoft solutions, on any scale. Homogenizing the entire government on a single OS is a bad idea (all your eggs in one basket), and that it's Windows seems to me insanely stupid (Meet the AU botnets!).

OOXML? Not really... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34948750)

The ISO approved OOXML has mathematical bugs in spreadsheet formula. The government cannot have endorsed the ISO OOXML standard.

Instead, they've chosen Ecma 376 (first edition, 2006) which is the version that everyone knows the bugs about. This is the version that failed to achieve ISO acceptance because it was riddled with bugs and accessibility problems.

While any government can internally use any format they wish I think there'd be a fairly good legal challenge to this on grounds of accessibility problems with the format, and worker discrimination.

Here's some analysis of the accessibility problems in Ecma 376 (2006), http://holloway.co.nz/ooxml-accessibility.pdf

AGIMO justify their decision by saying that "over 99% of government PCs currently use the ECMA-376 standard." but that means that they're running Microsoft Office
2007 (or later) and you could equally say that this suite uses ODF 1.0.

Fun and games (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34948764)

Having to deal with government departments in Aus is a pain. As one poster noted, most of the desktops use only IE6 - writing web apps for this space is frustrating as hell. Their IT departments seem to be full of uber-stressed bureaucrats who freak out over the idea of bumping up past what is now a 10 year old browser. Another fun one, up until recently trying to lodge Workcover payments as a business required the use of IE5 on the Mac - for security reasons!!! Easy fix was just to change the agent settings in Safari and everything worked just fine.

But to be fair, we hardly take them to task. "She'll be right, mate!"

Firefox = not very good for corporate. (2)

splerdu (187709) | more than 3 years ago | (#34948784)

Didn't have an MSI installer or GPO support for years on end,
has bad support for multiple instances (if you are running more than one session on the same machine, firefox won't even launch)
can't administer settings remotely, or lock down settings pages based on user rights.

Firefox is great browser, but it's very difficult to deploy and administer to a large corporate environment.
The recently added MSI installer is a step in the right direction, but there's still some ways for Firefox to go before it can really break into corporate.

Re:Firefox = not very good for corporate. (1)

Nemyst (1383049) | more than 3 years ago | (#34949308)

Like ActiveX support? What you say is true, but unfortunately even IE7, IE8 or the upcoming IE9, which will all have the specifications you're listing, aren't getting as much adoption as they should, mostly because business applications still rely on antiquated technologies that only run in IE6.

The biggest hurdle to a move forward are those internal web applications.

Re:Firefox = not very good for corporate. (1)

Malc (1751) | more than 3 years ago | (#34949336)

has bad support for multiple instances (if you are running more than one session on the same machine, firefox won't even launch)

Wrong. I regularly have it running concurrently under two logon sessions on Windows 7 Enterprise x64. I took my local admin privs away from my domain account, so I often login concurrently with a local admin account when I'm doing something that will need me to type my password a lot and an admin cmd prompt isn't sufficient. Thus I frequently have two instances of FF.

AGIMO Comments re-opened (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34948794)

The department/agency responsible has re-opened comment on the COE due to the level of interest the announcement caused. Have your say.

The more things remain the same (1)

bakes (87194) | more than 3 years ago | (#34948820)

People raised concerns when Australia was voting whether to accept OOXML as a standard. We were ignored, Australia went ahead and voted Yes.

Do you think they are going to care about any protests now that they have mandated using it? No way.

What do we do next? Protesting votes by voting out the politicians doesn't change who runs the govt departments - they just report to different ministers, and keep doing what they are doing. Until we get someone who actually (a) Understands, and (b) Cares, we are going to continue to be screwed. Unfortunately other industries experience the same issues, not just the IT industry

Re:The more things remain the same (1)

zbaron (649094) | more than 3 years ago | (#34949974)

No, Standards Australia abstained in the vote to fast track DIS29500.

They've been scammed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34948850)

It's almost like they've been mislead by the presence of the word "Open" in the title, which as I've said before is a dirty trick by Microsoft because

- the word has a positive connotation
- in implies independence from vendor lock-in
- it seems to want to create confusion between it and the name of the cross-platform product OpenOffice.org, or open source in general.

Clearly, since it has "open" in the title, they can get a bit of that warm feeling in their stomach that they are somehow contributing to more "openness" in the sense of open source and/or open government.

Of course you and I know that this is simply a veneer over a complicated mess of a standard that nobody could hope to both implement and be reliably compatible with Microsoft's implementation.

But you know, some people understand specifications and other people make decisions.

Re:They've been scammed (1)

Mr_Tulip (639140) | more than 3 years ago | (#34948926)

It's a hell of a lot better than Microsoft's previous formats, which were practically binary-only, and which were proprietary, meaning no one was legally allowed to write software that output files in that format. OPen Document format is similar to ODF, in that it's basically a zipped XML file, which contains enough data to read and make sense of the entire document, in most cases. It's not hard to write apps that read, write and process that data, nor is it illegal to do so.

I agree that in some cases, the 'standard' is convoluted and contains edge cases that make it nearly impossible to render OpenXML documents 100% accurately, however, it is quite possible to produce valid OpenXML documents using any decent programming tools.

As far as standards that are a "complicated mess", I really don't need to look much past HTML / CSS. The scope of what HTML can do is supposed to be much less than the entire Office suite of software, however, there are still major incompatibilities and unsupported features for all browsers. (of course, IE is a a major source of issues, but Safari does make me want to cry sometimes)

Re:They've been scammed (1)

Gadget_Guy (627405) | more than 3 years ago | (#34949778)

it seems to want to create confusion between it and the name of the cross-platform product OpenOffice.org, or open source in general.

To be fair, OpenOffice.org does have the name Office in it so you could say that Microsoft didn't start it!

But seriously folks, I don't think that it is a problem to "imply independence from vendor lock-in" because that is the point of making, publishing and standardising the format after all. They wanted other office products to use their format.

Fuck the Aussie Govt (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34948872)

They are, if anything, more fascist than the U.S. now.

Re:Fuck the Aussie Govt (2)

deniable (76198) | more than 3 years ago | (#34948952)

They're also more cheese-cake, but less lawnmower. Define your terms, please.

Let's not be so hard on AU (1)

atari2600a (1892574) | more than 3 years ago | (#34948964)

Maybe their government was stupid enough to think Windows & Mac was "every platform"! Hey-- it's not like they prematurely said they won a resource war while using non-existent weapons for justification!

What's in a name (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34948974)

It irks me every time I read OOXML.

It's was either named with an intention to confuse, or a backhanded slap at OOo.*

Are people too blind to see it?

*Maybe I'm wrong. Don't sue me bro.

You know... (5, Insightful)

rsilvergun (571051) | more than 3 years ago | (#34949014)

I'm tired of Bureaucracy being blamed for good 'ole fashion political corruption. Did it ever occur to any one that the Bureaucrats just do what they're told, and it's the elected officials ramming this through? It's like when New Orleans was destroyed in floods. Everybody blamed the guy that ran FEMA, and nobody pointed out the he was just an organizer for the flood response, and he had not authority to order the Nation Guard in to shore up the levies. Also, nobody asked why the National Guard wasn't shoring up the levies early on (hint: they were all deployed in Iraq, still are too).

Mark my words, this anti-Bureaucrat nonsense is the start of a class war to pit private employees against public so the rich can drop all our wages without us noticing. You'll be too busy wondering why the public sector employees have it so good to ask why you've got it so bad...

Sure its biased (1, Troll)

ugen (93902) | more than 3 years ago | (#34949030)

The only way it would not be considered biased here on /. is if it selected Linux and Open Office ;) Sheesh.

(Let's see how soon collective /. consciousness mods this down to "troll" so as not to see an opinion different from the general consensus)

Re:Sure its biased (3, Insightful)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | more than 3 years ago | (#34949074)

Mate, it's not biased because of one platform versus another, it's biased because OOXML isn't a widely-supported (or well-supported) standard, and they're picking it on the false premise that it is. Office 2010 supports ODF natively, and 2007 and 2003 support it with a plugin—those are the same suites that support OOXML (2003 needs a plugin). The fact that they chose to go with the Microsoft-only format tips the hand.

Re:Sure its biased (1)

scdeimos (632778) | more than 3 years ago | (#34949216)

Ok, how do you explain this then [microsoft.com] ?

On Office 2007:

The 2007 Office system supports the ECMA-376 Office Open XML Formats standard, which was later submitted to ISO/IEC and was published in late 2008 as the ISO/IEC 29500 Office Open XML Formats standard.

And on Office 2010:

Office 2010 provides read support for ECMA-376, read/write support for ISO/IEC 29500 Transitional, and read support for ISO/IEC 29500 Strict.

My gut feeling is that this is just idiocy in government and someone without a clue wrote this particular requirement. If Microsoft was behind this then surely they wouldn't have asked for ECMA-376 because their current version of Office can't even write it.

Re:Sure its biased (1)

Gadget_Guy (627405) | more than 3 years ago | (#34949832)

Mate, it's not biased because of one platform versus another, it's biased because OOXML isn't a widely-supported (or well-supported) standard, and they're picking it on the false premise that it is.

You can say it isn't widely supported, but it is widely used - way more than ODF. And considering that 99% of the files are already in that format and do not require conversion (which would inevitably lead to formatting differences) then you can't say that there are no benefits to choosing that format and that this therefore must be the result of bias.

In my business, I would love to move to a free office suite, but most of our files get sent to other people outside this company and so we have to use the format that makes it easy to deal with the real world.

No other office suite? (4, Insightful)

Chas (5144) | more than 3 years ago | (#34949106)

Uhm. News flash, even MS Office doesn't fully support said "standard"!

AND IT'S THEIR FUCKING "STANDARD"!

Actually, no office suite in the world. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34949990)

The requirement is "read and write". There's nothing available at the moment. And ISO is a fucking joke. http://noooxml.org/ [noooxml.org]

Upgrade plan (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34949242)

I figure that the only way to move away from IE6 is for Facebook to not support this browser (not only logging in, but actually making viewing pages a pain). As for moving away from OOXML, I don't have a clue but it'll have to be that drastic.

How can it be any clearer? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34949462)

Just like the Special Olympics, no matter how you try to sell it, it's still retarded.

Who is taking the bribes then? (4, Interesting)

BestNicksRTaken (582194) | more than 3 years ago | (#34949736)

So exactly which politician is taking the M$ bribes then? Come on, name and shame time.

Sticking with MSIE is just dependence on an archaic IT infrastructure, and no respect for security, but forcing the use of OOXML just makes no sense other than for vendor lock-in.

What Office Suite does OOXML? (1)

miffo.swe (547642) | more than 3 years ago | (#34949740)

To my knowledge no Office Suite does OOXML at all, not even Microsofts. I guess anyone can just write "OOXML" on their Office Suite and sell it just as Microsoft does so this shouldnt be a problem really.

So they can't use any software then (1)

magpie (3270) | more than 3 years ago | (#34950082)

So basically they have decided to adopt a 'standard' that no one, even Microsoft, implements correctly? I assume they mean the ISO one. Just demand that they only use software that implements it correctly according to the standard and what them have fun.
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