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French Government Recommends Standardizing on ODF

samzenpus posted more than 7 years ago | from the if-the-french-think-it's-a-good-idea dept.

210

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

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210 comments

Breaking news from Paris (-1, Troll)

patio11 (857072) | more than 7 years ago | (#16317609)

Microsoft has threatened to invade France to reimpose "order" on the chaos of the ODF. France has pre-emptively surrendered. The treaty will, naturally, be written in .doc. Microsoft intends, while they're at it, to fire half of France's work force and outsource their invading-poor-African-nations operations in favor of France's core competency, whining about American hegemony.

Re:Breaking news from Paris (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16317809)

I don't understand why some people can continue to bash French with what happens in Iraq. The "coward" French were right to refuse this silly war and false proofs from US government. If you are pleased to see some Americans back from Iraq in plastic bag you should volunteer and don't speak about bringing Freedom to Iraqi people, more than 50000 have been killed since "Mission accomplished".

Beside that, ODF like many standards helps people to communicate or exchange better. Try to use your NTSC TV or your CDMA mobile in Europe and you will be a little disappointed.

Re:Breaking news from Paris (-1, Flamebait)

CaptainFrankfurt (997212) | more than 7 years ago | (#16317989)

The "France surrenders preemptively" comment is a standard France joke - see Fark.com, not an Iraq jibe

Re:Breaking news from Paris (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16318091)

That attempt at a joke isn't funny at all and very demeaning towards the french. That's how I see it and I'm not even french.

Re:Breaking news from Paris (1)

masklinn (823351) | more than 7 years ago | (#16318769)

Most frenchs don't care though, I'm french and I mostly don't give a damn about these jokes.

Re:Breaking news from Paris (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16318139)

You mean, they surrender like the US soldiers, who abandoned truck drivers ? [abcnews.com]

Re:Breaking news from Paris (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16318241)

The US hasn't won a single war where France wasn't fighting along their side.

Re:Breaking news from Paris (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16318417)

Try using your Europe-standard PAL TV in France and you'll be disappointed. They use SECAM.

Re:Breaking news from Paris (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16318373)

Awwww, still upset that France wouldn't rubber stamp
your imperialist adventure? What a pity.

How's that whole Iraq thing going by the way?

You can have any flavor you like, if it's vanilla (0, Troll)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 7 years ago | (#16317617)

Standards are great tools. They provide everyone a level playing field to begin development. You have a defined target, and you can build your application directly to spec.

But what about innovation? If we cry foul that monopolies stifle innovation, then we should also be decrying standards that may not adapt easily to future problems.

The IHWB (Institute of Horse Whip Buggy manufacturers) can't compete with someone who develops a cheaper, faster, and safer means of transportation than on top of some unpredictable animal.

Re:You can have any flavor you like, if it's vanil (4, Insightful)

macadamia_harold (947445) | more than 7 years ago | (#16317677)

But what about innovation? If we cry foul that monopolies stifle innovation, then we should also be decrying standards that may not adapt easily to future problems.

You're confusing a product with a business method.

A monopoly is created and maintained through business tactics (i.e. flooding the market with (initially) cheap product to kill off competition, strongarming resellers and OEMs, etc).

An open standard, on the other hand is just a tool. If a better tool is made available, there's nothing preventing the market from switching over to the new tool and phasing out the old one (i.e. the transition from ISA to PCI)

Re:You can have any flavor you like, if it's vanil (-1, Flamebait)

TheSeer2 (949925) | more than 7 years ago | (#16317759)

Just because something is free doesn't mean it is better.

Re:You can have any flavor you like, if it's vanil (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16317785)

You mean, like the copy of Microsoft Word which got bundled with my new computer?

reading comprehension? (1)

macadamia_harold (947445) | more than 7 years ago | (#16317797)

where did I say that because something is free, it's better?

Re:You can have any flavor you like, if it's vanil (2, Interesting)

Daytona955i (448665) | more than 7 years ago | (#16319193)

There's a difference between "free" and "open." The internet was built on open standards. This is why when you get e-mail or access a web page, you can use any e-mail client and any web browser. (We'll ignore the html restrictions certain browsers have imposed and focus instead on the http protocol)

Open standards actually encourage innovation because no one has to write their own e-mail protocol or web protocol. It also does not hinder the adoption of new products because if I can just replace my current e-mail client with a new one seamlessly, I'm more likely to try it out.

This is why MS Word is the defacto standard. Because it's the best product? No, because anytime someone else tried to come out with a different product there was a high barrier to entry because the new word processor would not be able to use the current word processor files.

I think Open Standards help innovation because they allow anyone to create new software that can be easily adopted. The only person they don't help is any current monopoly. And as others have mentioned, if a newer, better way of doing things come up, there's no reason you couldn't adopt the new standard while retaining backwards compatibility with the old open format.

Re:You can have any flavor you like, if it's vanil (5, Insightful)

testadicazzo (567430) | more than 7 years ago | (#16318271)

But what about innovation? If we cry foul that monopolies stifle innovation, then we should also be decrying standards that may not adapt easily to future problems.

The grandparent would seem to be a reasonably well masked troll, since the counterpoints to this statement are obvious and well rehearsed here on slashdot. But I'll throw my 2 cents into the pot.

In addition to the other fine comments regarding standards, let us not forget that this proposes an exchange standard. There's nothing stopping anyone from using propietary MS Word formats all the way until they need to send the document to someone in the French (and hopefully later the EU ) government. Well, there's nothing stopping anyone as long as MS implements the standard. Do they?

The problem with the current situation is the presence of de-facto propietary standard. Other word processors can't compete because everyone already has Word, and thus people buying new software want ot be able to read and write the latest propietary Word documents. MS exploits this, using it as a tool to ensure the eventual adoptation of it's newer version releases. This is good short term business strategy, but it's harmful for the rest of us. In that sense one can see this as the workings of the free market. If MS were a more benevolent monopolist, allowing open access to its document standards so other OS's and Word Processor developers could follow their standards, there would almost certainly be less anti-monopoly activity against them. One could say they are following, in tradtional corporate strategy, a greedy algorithm to formulate its strategy.

Re:You can have any flavor you like, if it's vanil (1)

bit01 (644603) | more than 7 years ago | (#16318433)

The grandparent would seem to be a reasonably well masked troll,

It's probably an astroturfer, that's why such messages keep getting repeated.

This single decision could cost M$ hundreds of thousands of euros. You honestly think that a company that fine and upstanding isn't flooding every discussion they can with their propaganda?

---

New game: Spot the lying astroturfer [wikipedia.org] on /.!

Re:You can have any flavor you like, if it's vanil (1)

testadicazzo (567430) | more than 7 years ago | (#16318697)

You're probably right. I've never heard the term astroturfer before though.

On the other hand, there are plenty of MS zealots out there, for a variety of wierd reasons. So who knows?

Re:You can have any flavor you like, if it's vanil (4, Insightful)

Penguinoflight (517245) | more than 7 years ago | (#16317687)

While that may become an issue in the future, at the moment the only thing stifiling innovation (and competition) is microsofts memory-dump file format. The ODF is a standard composition format; Any well written program should be able to read ODF files, and should be able to write out an ODF in a similar way that photoshop or your favorite graphics program can output JPEGs. The resulting file may be slightly less useful, but it's a platform.

Re:You can have any flavor you like, if it's vanil (5, Insightful)

MojoRilla (591502) | more than 7 years ago | (#16318005)

But what about innovation?
Ah, the Microsoft whipping horse. Innovation will be hurt by these pesky open standards and open source software.

I can't think of a computing standards process that has hurt innovation. Certainly there are plenty examples of standards that have succeded versus their proprietary counterparts (TCP/IP instead of NetBEUI or AppleTalk, the HTTP and HTML instead of MSN or Rainman (AOL's proprietary page definition language)).

If someone has a great new idea, why can't they get it added to an existing open standard? Or even create a competing open standard. If it is innovative enough, it will be adopted. Standards aren't a monopoly. Standards still have to compete for mindshare.

The problem with open standards, for companies like Microsoft, is that they discourage lock in. If every word processor could edit all your files with full fidelity, you would have a lot less incentive to stick to Microsoft Word. If all server software worked perfectly with Microsoft Windows clients, there would be a lot less Microsoft server licences sold.

Re:You can have any flavor you like, if it's vanil (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 7 years ago | (#16318729)

You mention MSN, but you fail to mention that MSN Messanger, is the defacto messaging standard. Some others use ICQ/AOL or Yahoo IM. They are all closed standards. There's an open standard called Jabber, yet I don't think it's managed to gain much of a foot hold. Your forget that when HTML was created, there was no Rainman (definitely, definitely no Rainman). There was no NetBEUI or AppleTalk when TCP/IP was created. I think that open standards are great, however, I'm not really aware of any real open standards that have won when proprietary standards have beat them to release. We still user MP3,MPG,JPG,GIF (which is finally patent free), DOC, and many other formats that are propriety, yet accepted as the defacto standard, because it's what people have always used.

Re:You can have any flavor you like, if it's vanil (4, Insightful)

1u3hr (530656) | more than 7 years ago | (#16318909)

We still user MP3,MPG,JPG,GIF (which is finally patent free), DOC, and many other formats that are propriety, yet accepted as the defacto standard, because it's what people have always used.

The first four you mention are all openly defined and stable, if perhaps encumbered with patents. They're implemented by literally thousands of small and large software applications. DOC is a messy unpublished format (I hesitate to use the word "standard") and it's a great effort for other vendors to reverse-engineer it, a situation MS is very happy with and is unhappy if required to use a less obscure format.

As for "it's what people have always used", you are obviously very green (well, in comparison with myself). In the early 80s, "everyone" used WordStar. In the late 80s, "everyone" used WordPerfect. Only with Windows did MS leverage its inside knowledge of the OS and its drivers to take a lead with WinWord. The early versions took great pains to be able to use WordPerfect files (which of course were also prorietary, but well-understood) and to emulate its features.

By all accounts, the DOC format is full of kludges and is not somethgn to be proud of or emualte by choice. I doubt I am alone in having Word documents corrupt spontaneously, or balloon unaccountably to gigantic sizes.

Re:You can have any flavor you like, if it's vanil (1)

imroy (755) | more than 7 years ago | (#16319063)

There's an open standard called Jabber, yet I don't think it's managed to gain much of a foot hold.

I think a little company called Google will help there with Google talk [google.com] .

Re:You can have any flavor you like, if it's vanil (2, Informative)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 7 years ago | (#16318121)

ODF is meant to be extensible.

It should be no problem for innovating companies to add new XML tags to the ODF document formats or include entirely new components to it. The good things is that other programs that don't support those new features should still be able to load the document, albeit without the new feature.

ODF is designed for both backward and forward compatibility.

Re:You can have any flavor you like, if it's vanil (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 7 years ago | (#16318761)

No, you can't use undefined tags and still call your product ODF compliant. That's just asking for a company (MS most likely) to release MS word with a bunch of their own extensions, and maintain their monopoly because nobody else will be able to read the format. Granted, OASIS can make changes to the ODF format (ODF Version 2?) such that future programs can make use of new features we hadn't envisioned. There's no point in creating an open standard if you let everybody just change it however they like.

Re:You can have any flavor you like, if it's vanil (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 7 years ago | (#16318911)

So ODF is not upwards compatible?

If I create a document in a future version of ODF, I won't be able to load it into an old appliction using a previous version of ODF? So basically ODF will force you to upgrade your software (and hardware) to match the latest features required by the latest ODF specs used? That would really suck if that were true.

Re:You can have any flavor you like, if it's vanil (2, Insightful)

jesterzog (189797) | more than 7 years ago | (#16318251)

But what about innovation? If we cry foul that monopolies stifle innovation, then we should also be decrying standards that may not adapt easily to future problems.

In general commercial terms, I agree that legislation shouldn't (usually) require companies to avoid innovation -- that's how innovation happens, after all. With government entities, though, I have no problem with solid standards being adopted for communicating information. I'd quite happily accept a mandate stating that government documents have to be available in ASCII text, although these days HTML would probably be better since it'd allow for better markup and internationalisation.

The problem with innovative technologies is that with a few exceptions, they typically focus on the largest part of the market, and this ignores all sorts of niche markets. (eg. Disabled people, people who don't use Windows or have access to a major web browser, people who don't have cell phones, and whatever else.) This is where standards shine, if they're designed well, because it lets the people in the niche areas develop their own tools for handling the standard formats instead of having to hope that someone in the commercial world will decide it worthwhile to take notice of them. The fact that they're standards means that there's enough time (without change) for tools to actually be developed and be useful. And this is why organisations whose job it is to communicate should be adopting standards to do so, rather than trying to innovate too much.

Besides, vanilla or not, there's nothing wrong or limited with ODF if your goal is to communicate information, and this is what most government entities will be aiming to do.

Re:You can have any flavor you like, if it's vanil (1)

1u3hr (530656) | more than 7 years ago | (#16318787)

But what about innovation? If we cry foul that monopolies stifle innovation, then we should also be decrying standards that may not adapt easily to future problems.

So Microsoft's proprietary standard(s) is/are future proof? And open standards never evolve?

Anyway, we're talking about a file format for exchanging documents. Necessarily there has to be a high degree of standardisation. The question is, who defines it -- Microsoft, or a public institution.

Customers are free to purchase software that meets their needs. MS is free to implement standard file formats.

Re:You can have any flavor you like, if it's vanil (1)

masklinn (823351) | more than 7 years ago | (#16318791)

Innovation?

Well, you can innovate in your user interface (see Office 12's Ribbon), or in quite a lot of UI features and stuff (spell & grammar checking) without the need for your own format.

And if you need to make the format evolve, just get on the format's standardization comitee/board, argue your point, and make the format evolve.

What do you say, others will be able to implement the innovations you add to the format? Why yes, that's called levelling the playing field, and it gives you (as a user) stuff like intercommunication (which is the point of a standard), competition, choice, ...

This won't spread to Stalingrad... (1)

Lord Aurora (969557) | more than 7 years ago | (#16317619)

Because in Soviet Russia, the government writes your documents for you!

Re:This won't spread to Stalingrad... (1)

sporkme (983186) | more than 7 years ago | (#16317751)

Nice one, but it should read:
In Soviet Russia, document mandates standard for you!

Re:This won't spread to Stalingrad... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16318045)

In the USA, the government listens in on you. Precisely the thing that they always looked down upon when it happened in Soviet Russia.
They then said that the Soviets had no Freedom and the Americans had.
Now it turns out that this was just a convenient way to make Americans believe they had an enemy, and when this enemy was gone, so was the Freedom.

Serial numbers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16318369)

Because in Soviet Russia, the government writes your documents for you!

Actually there were periods when they used to tattoo serial numbers on prisoners in the Gulags. So your statement should have read:
"In Soviet Russia the Goverment writes a serial number on you!"

Lol (1)

george_e (961179) | more than 7 years ago | (#16317623)

STANDARDISE THIS!

misread (2, Funny)

macadamia_harold (947445) | more than 7 years ago | (#16317625)

It is recommended that the government will fund a research center dedicated to open-source software security as well, adds the article.

Wouldn't that make it a prediction, rather than a recommendation?

Re:misread (1)

joto (134244) | more than 7 years ago | (#16317691)

Apart from the funny grammar, no! Just remove the word "will", and you'll feel ok again.

How long before the Microsoft rebuttal report? (1, Interesting)

Mostly a lurker (634878) | more than 7 years ago | (#16317635)

I am sure the French report's recommendations are sound, but much less sure they will be implemented. Microsoft has plenty of money to produce its own "independent" reports objecting to the imposition of a "monopoly" based on open standards, as well as playing up areas where MS Office is arguably superior. That same Microsoft money can also buy support for their point of view in influential circles.

Re:How long before the Microsoft rebuttal report? (4, Informative)

bahbar (982972) | more than 7 years ago | (#16317805)

That would be forgetting that the french state is a recognized monopoly in a lot of areas (in France), and that few French have an issue with it.

As for buying viewpoints in influencial circles, the french politics are far from the US lobbying model. Don't assume what works in the US works everywhere.
Is it going to spread throughout Europe ? I would hope so, but it is unlikely to be made a requirement.

Re:How long before the Microsoft rebuttal report? (0)

howlingmadhowie (943150) | more than 7 years ago | (#16317889)

i trust when you say 'state' you mean 'government'.

well, state services have monopolies in a lot of areas, and with good reason. state services are the only people that are allowed to print money, raise or lower taxes, employ police, judges, create laws, permit patents, declare infrastructure to fulfil legal requirements, create an army, etc.

so what do you mean when you say that the french state is a recognised monopoly in a lot of areas? isn't that true of all states? are you referring to nationalised services (water, gas, electricity, roads and motorways)?

Buying support (2, Insightful)

jesterzog (189797) | more than 7 years ago | (#16318177)

That same Microsoft money can also buy support for their point of view in influential circles.

I don't doubt that Microsoft will fight this and attempt to drag it out as long as possible, but I'm not convinced that Microsoft will be able to buy its way into French politics, or many other countries. The US Federal Government is quite an unusual form of democracy when compared with the rest of the world, considering some of the things that seem to go on. Not every democracy is designed such that mega-corporations to fund both sides of a two party system and effectively buy their favourite policies. If it were so easy outside the US, I doubt Microsoft would have had so many problems with the European Union already.

Re:How long before the Microsoft rebuttal report? (4, Interesting)

zeux (129034) | more than 7 years ago | (#16318337)

Unfortunately for them, Microsoft's money doesn't buy a lot in France. Recently, the whole administration switched to Firefox and Thunderbird. It started with the state police (300000 computers if I remember correctly) and then continued with the rest of the state employees (I don't have the number but it's definitely a lot).

Basically, and from what I heard, the idea is to first swith the Windows softwares the administration uses to equivalent softwares that do exist on other OS the ultimate goal being to switch from Windows to Linux when all the applications are replaced. I guess the ODF switch is just another step in that direction.

Government websites and web services are already all built on open source software. I'm happy to hear that my government is spending less on windows licences and I do really hope that they'll make it and that it will be used as an example for other European countries.

Once Again Europe shows how it ought to be done... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16317713)

Here in the US if some naive idealist came out with this idea he'd be on the MS payroll in a heartbeat.

ohhh, finally a standard! (1, Interesting)

sporkme (983186) | more than 7 years ago | (#16317729)

While I do wish that this order was that documents would be distributed *only* in .ODF, that is just blue-sky-software-politics.
The headline should read "French Government Recommends Standardizing on ODF, too!"
Because most people use .DOC, that is the de facto 'standard' wether we like it or not.
The real news here is the big F-U to Microsoft: We are sick of using only your software. Our governments are beginning to reccommend using alternate methods because we do not trust you. If you continue to develop software the way you do, we will proceed with our plans to isolate our governments from you. To illustrate, TFA:
--
In the report, Carayon also recommended the government fund a research center dedicated to open-source software security, and set up a system to help national and local government agencies exchange information about best practice in the use of open-source software. He also suggested that the European Union should create an agency with the ambitious goal of ensuring its technological independence.
Technological Independence. It is almost like there is going to be a Bretagne Tea Party, complete with euro-geeks dumping crates of Microsoft software into the Atlantic; What a sight they would be acting out in defiance of a monopoly of taxation without defragmentation. Bleh. Not bloody likely. Bring on the funding for OSS security, François!

Re:ohhh, finally a standard! (4, Insightful)

kripkenstein (913150) | more than 7 years ago | (#16318087)

Technological Independence. It is almost like there is going to be a Bretagne Tea Party, complete with euro-geeks dumping crates of Microsoft software into the Atlantic

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

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

And this is to say nothing about nations which have a less-friendly relationship with the US. What if the US and China find themselves at war tomorrow, and Microsoft immediately stop releasing patches for Chinese IP addresses? Will the Chinese IT war effort be contingent upon successful hacking of WGA and so forth? Yes, this is a possible fix, but again - how can they not consider the worst-case scenario where this does not work very well?

What does that have to do with "IT economy" ? (3, Insightful)

SgtChaireBourne (457691) | more than 7 years ago | (#16318331)

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

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

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

Pretty much every aspect of society and the economy nowadays is depended in someway on using ICT for most basic activities.

That's pretty scary when you consider that nearly each and every board room, meeting room and government office has a system that is exposed to the net with what amount to standardized backdoors into the system. Yes standardized, the same exploit working on 90% of the desktops can be called standard. In many cases there are even microphones built into or attached to the systems which can be activated.

That's really scary when you realize that no one outside of the original vendor can do code audits. It's the only one with access to or use of the source code. So in principle anything could be hidden there on purpose or by accident, by the vendor or by intruders. So called Anti-virus programs detect massproduced intrusion tools, but only after they've been collected and analysed. Custom or targeted intrusions using code that is not wide spread have a much lower chance of detection.

So making a backdoor for the one brand /model of system gives you a backdoor into not just part of the IT sector, but really a majority of the rest of the EU economy. France's move is a good one. Moving to open standards for government documents, will enable at the least diversification. Who knows how big the final gain will be. Few if any really predicted how (pre-spam) e-mail (aka SMTP + ISO-8859-x) would take off and drive advancement. Few if any really predicted that the WWW (aka HTTP + HTML) would take off and drive all kinds of improvement. However, everyone, even Chairman Gates' fanbois and catamites, is experiencing a need for document interoperability. Interoperability is something which we have seen can only be provided by open standards, in this case OpenDocument.

Re:What does that have to do with "IT economy" ? (1)

LaughingCoder (914424) | more than 7 years ago | (#16319097)

That's pretty scary when you consider that nearly each and every board room, meeting room and government office has a system that is exposed to the net with what amount to standardized backdoors into the system.
Ahhh, you have hit upon it. You have uncovered the hidden agenda.
So in principle anything could be hidden there on purpose or by accident
Exactly.
That's really scary when you realize that no one outside of the original vendor can do code audits.
And of course no one outside of the original vendor can *change* the code either.

What are you smoking? Give us some. (1)

jotaeleemeese (303437) | more than 7 years ago | (#16318747)

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

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

Re:What are you smoking? Give us some. (2)

kripkenstein (913150) | more than 7 years ago | (#16318823)

if you think the Chinese military waits for patches released directly by MS for vital equipment, then you are watching too many bad movies

Yes, I agree. But even if all the frontline and otherwise critical systems are MS-free, the economy and industry supporting the Chinese war machine is based (IT-wise) on Microsoft. So, the effects might not be immediate, but would eventually be tremendous.

Re:ohhh, finally a standard! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16318781)

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

And this is to say nothing about nations which have a less-friendly relationship with the US. What if the US and China find themselves at war tomorrow, and Microsoft immediately stop releasing patches for Chinese IP addresses? Will the Chinese IT war effort be contingent upon successful hacking of WGA and so forth? Yes, this is a possible fix, but again - how can they not consider the worst-case scenario where this does not work very well?"

Worst case, I guess the result would be that the EU would make it legal to break Windows protection or would break it itself, replacing it with a EU version (so that the EU could act as a middle-man for handling MS sales). If that does not help, I guess the EU could fork Windows (the source is largely out there; change would not have to be overnight; Wine might even be a reasonable starting point)

This could result in a trade war which, in turn, could lead to real war, but I would expect that both parties would realize that that would be a lose-lose situation.

The French attitude (5, Insightful)

Flying pig (925874) | more than 7 years ago | (#16317743)

The French have a confused view of the US. On the one hand they like the style of some American popular culture and, contrary to what many people think, they were rather grateful to be liberated in WW2 (even now it's not generally appreciated that the Germans were progressively starving many of the French to death.) On the other hand, they still have a big thing about Francophone culture, and they absolutely adore standards (as a Frenchwoman once said to me at a conference, "My husband is a count, but I am in charge of electrical standards."), probably because Napolean was keen on them.

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

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

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

Re:The French attitude (0, Offtopic)

Anpheus (908711) | more than 7 years ago | (#16317765)

Mod this man up.

Re:The French attitude (1)

howlingmadhowie (943150) | more than 7 years ago | (#16317907)

good god, can we please stop talking about 'the french' or any other nation as if it were some sort of collective? this reeks of xenophobia.

OK, sorry (2, Funny)

Flying pig (925874) | more than 7 years ago | (#16318341)

Let's say "a substantial part of the ENArchy, and the national bureaucracy, speaking from personal experience over a number of years"

Good Lord, this is Slashdot. If you want academic standards of discussion and analysis, you could always try Digg!

And in case you are wondering, I think they have the right attitude. It's _your_ interpretation that suggesting that the French want to encourage the use of French and international standards, and mentioning Napoleon is xenophobia. Which suggests that you think those are bad things. Which, friend, makes you the xenophobe.

Re:OK, sorry (1)

howlingmadhowie (943150) | more than 7 years ago | (#16318819)

i don't see how i was interpreting anything. i was just objecting to the attributing of qualities to 'the french' as a group. if you want to say 'a tendency in the french government or certain government departments' than say it, don't say 'the french', it's impolite and wrong. and you also ascribed some negative qualities to 'the french' (maybe i should conduct a poll of 'the french' to see how accurate your picture is). the problem is, the world consists of individuals.

if you herd people into boxes, you will always find one or two to justify the etikettenschwindel you're perpetrating.

Re:The French attitude (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16317911)

rather grateful to be liberated in WW2

I invoke Godwins Law

More than Napoleon... (4, Insightful)

orzetto (545509) | more than 7 years ago | (#16318113)

[The French] absolutely adore standards [...], probably because Napolean was keen on them.

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

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

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

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

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

Re:More than Napoleon... (1)

tygerstripes (832644) | more than 7 years ago | (#16318143)

Excellent - when can we expect the FODder WP app? Wonderfully appropriate, in a government context :-)

Re:More than Napoleon... (0, Offtopic)

giorgiofr (887762) | more than 7 years ago | (#16318605)

almost ideologically against state intervention

And why do you make it sound like a bad thing? I for one would LOVE it if the EU gov't incinerated itself or at least stopped regulating my whole life. First my gov't told me what level of RAID I must be running in my own f'ing company, then the Eu gov't comes and tells me what program I must use? Well fuck that, I'll do as I like. They can come and get me if they want... the weapons that I am NOT allowed to buy will protect me...

Re:More than Napoleon... (1)

naapo (982524) | more than 7 years ago | (#16318695)

Could we perhaps settle for .FUD (Format UserDocument) instead?

Agree, except (1)

Flying pig (925874) | more than 7 years ago | (#16318715)

Rather than owning strategic companies, the US just has a system of pork barrel politics to keep them going (e.g. anybody making airplanes, and the amazing system under which American farmers have their surplus corn bought to make ethanol which needs as much fossil fuel to produce as it replaces, for no net gain whatsoever (source: Scientific American, this month). It is also good at protectionism when required - look at how online betting companies suddenly got hit when the US realised they were foreign owned and extracting US dollars. I bet you before long they will find a way covertly to fund GM and Ford, because after the midterms the Republicans won't want any more vote losses. Any government that wants to stay in business has to find a way to rebalance the economy, because there is no such thing as a free market. Europe just tends to be a little more blatant (transparent) about it.

Re:The French attitude (0, Troll)

tygerstripes (832644) | more than 7 years ago | (#16318129)

You're right, the French do adore standards - but if and only if they get to set them.

You'll notice there are two standards of Sea Mark (buoys) [wikipedia.org] in existence globally. The reason? The french insisted on keeping their own standard when everyone else had a different one in place. So, everyone changed to the french standard. And when half the world had changed over, the french relented and went with the original standard...

I know, it's a bit silly to discuss "the french" as a generic collective, but this does rather smack of their culture. I love France personally, but sometimes they drive me mad too...

By the way, "My husband is a count...". I think you misspelled.

Buoyage (5, Informative)

Epeeist (2682) | more than 7 years ago | (#16318187)

> You'll notice there are two standards of Sea Mark (buoys) in existence globally.

True

> The french insisted on keeping their own standard when everyone else had a different one in place.

False. IALA System B is used in the Americas, the Philippines and Japan. Everywhere else in the world uses IALA System A.

Now if you had wanted to bring up prime meridians...

FYI - I teach the UK RYA (Royal Yachting Association) yachtmaster course.

Re:Buoyage (1)

tygerstripes (832644) | more than 7 years ago | (#16318353)

It's silly really, everyone knows Greenwich is not the centre of the world... it's the centre of the Universe!

Re:The French attitude (1)

bloblu (891170) | more than 7 years ago | (#16318357)

You're right, the French do adore standards - but if and only if they get to set them.


Well, what is happening is that as the US is so against any standard (as they supposedly restrain freedom), that europeans are the main force behind current standardization. People in Asia are well aware of the need for standards, and the european commission is willing to draft them. The US refuses to take parts in the talks.

Eventually, everybody will use european standards (bigger market than that of the US, plus using those standards don't prevent products to be sold in the US).

You may well mock french willingness to define standards, but the truth is that we are somewhat successful in that particular game. (metric system, Code Civil used in many countries, and so on).

Re:The French attitude (2, Interesting)

rozz (766975) | more than 7 years ago | (#16318381)

u may be right that the french like standards ... and a lot of the standards used today have french originsd or connotations ... like the metric sytem which afaik was set at a conference in paris and some french museum has the honour of keeping THE meter ... and the circulation on the right side of the road which afaik was set by napoleon

but your "french attitude" is a bit missplaced .. if u want a sample of stubborness in applying standards, u better look at the UK.
they are quite funny in that respect too ... they "proudly" refused napoleon's standard and kind of forgot they use the left side of the road because the romans imposed that on them ... they refused the metric system and also forgot that their system was imposed by another conqueror (the measurement system based on multiples of 3, 4 and the dozen is actually germanic)
history is quite funny sometimes ;)

Re:The French attitude (1)

tygerstripes (832644) | more than 7 years ago | (#16318537)

Couldn't agree less. The UK has adopted the metric system in pretty much all things, the only notable exception being the reference to miles rather than kilometres in signage.

The reason they haven't changed to kilometres is the same as the reason they haven't adopted right-hand-side driving - as an island nation there was no need to integrate their road systems with the rest of Europe - note that you'll find a similar situation in many island nations: see Japan, Australia. Modifying their entire road system, signage etc would be a monumentally expensive and disruptive task, with very little real benefit. The benefits of converting the imperial monetary and scientific measurement systems to metric are obvious, however, and the cost was not so outrageous, so they went ahead and converted.

To suggest that these decisions were made out of "stubbornness" is like suggesting that they maintained a large navy out of pride. It's just a matter of practicality, and attributable to geographic isolation. It's all a case of analysing the relative cost/benefits of any proposed change, and making rational decisions, which seems to have been the case in the UK.

They didn't refuse Napoleon's standard out of pride - they repelled any attempts of invasion, so no attempt to impose a standard has been made since Roman times. The original reason for adopting left-hand-side driving is irrelevant when deciding whether or not to adopt a different standard.

Re:The French attitude (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16318405)

Yes you're right, if french government choose ODF it's because of Napoleon and WWII and this has nothing to do with interoperability, price of software, strong open source lobby in France...

Re:The French attitude (2, Interesting)

infofc (979172) | more than 7 years ago | (#16318479)

What confused view are you talking about. You mean like torn between hate and love? Nah, the only ones that look at the world in a WW2 perspective are anglo-saxons. The french are just bitter that they invented pride, and the US hijacked the pride concept. i.e. bitter that they lost the cultural dominance game. And what a shame it is, french culture is 10x more charming.

Re:The French attitude (1)

mxolisi06 (1009567) | more than 7 years ago | (#16318587)

This story has little to do with the French's view of the US, nor does it have anything to do with Francophony. It has to do with technical independance of Europe in general and France in particular. In fact, the bits about ODF and open source are only a small part of the report [ladocument...ancaise.fr] wich is about economic intelligence.

What is really interesting here is that if the recommendations are actually implemented and result in a wider use of ODF, it would not only benefit to European companies, but also to American ones ("more and more of my business partners use ODF, at least in Europe, hmm, I might recalculate my TCO numbers for MS Office vs OSS alternative").

Re:The French attitude (4, Insightful)

pubjames (468013) | more than 7 years ago | (#16318659)

The French have a confused view of the US.

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

Re:The French attitude (2, Funny)

masklinn (823351) | more than 7 years ago | (#16318843)

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

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

Don't move from where you are by the way, the police will be at your place soon to make you realize that the current administration is not "confused" in any way, and that you shouldn't voice such anti-american thought as they support terrorists, undermine the current administration's War on Terror efforts and show a distinct lack of support for the american troops in Iraq.

What a lot of ignorance is displayed there. (1)

jotaeleemeese (303437) | more than 7 years ago | (#16318995)

France fought from the start the Nazi invation, they were at war with Germany 20 years ealier as you may recall, so they were under no illusions of what a German, revengful ocupation, would be like (Versailles is in France you know).

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

US people do not appreciate other countries pride for their own culture because the US has none of its own. Say what you meay, but the US is a young country with immigrants from all over the globe, thus the mere thought of a national culture is alien.

France has, understandably so, pride on all things French. Is what distinguishes them from the rest of Europe and what many other Europeans try to emulate (the food, the laid back attitude, the galantry, the language). Many US people tire of mocking that, or look at it in wonderment. The res of the world understand the US is the big world's melting pot, but the US does not reciprocate and tries to understand nothing about countries with homogenous cultures.

As for adoring standards, what exactly is wrong with that? The metric system, the most famous of French standards, has made international commerce and science possible. The Napoleonic code is the basis for legal systems in many countries, it was French compromise which allowed the meridian in Greeenwich to be considered the basis of UCT thus laying the fundation for a coherent, worldwide, time system.

As for French influence in the world you are painting a sorry pantomime of today's situation.

France can suggest things like adoption of this format, but with an EU of 20 something countries nothing that France says nowadays is gospel, not even for Belgium, if you think that tin pot despots in Africa care about what France does regarding a matter that most likely affects them little or not at all, then you need to read more newspapers.

Re:The French attitude (1)

mgblst (80109) | more than 7 years ago | (#16319199)

The US stepped into Europe for its own reasons, just as the UK did. Did you know that one of the reasons the US is so independent from the British is because the US waited so long to join the war. The UK had to sell of most of its US assets to fight the war on its own.

And don't think that France is grateful for the part that all nations played (especially the US), but how far should that gratitude go?

Re:The French attitude (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16319243)

the doms and toms

The what and the who?

Before we get too excited (-1, Redundant)

melonman (608440) | more than 7 years ago | (#16317747)

This is the government whose websites offer secure certificates as .exe archives, and whose tax website advises the user to ignore any security warnings that come up while using their system. If there's a way to render ODF unreliable, insecure and/or platform-specific, I'd say that the French are the people to do it.

Re:Before we get too excited (1)

Rix (54095) | more than 7 years ago | (#16317817)

I'm sure they can find a way for it to explode in mid flight, too.

Re:Before we get too excited (1)

antoinjapan (450229) | more than 7 years ago | (#16317843)

I doubt it, how are they going to stick an intel chip into a document format.

Re:Before we get too excited (1)

melonman (608440) | more than 7 years ago | (#16318201)

Well, I would have said that making filling in a tax return over a secure connection platform-specific was pretty tricky, before trying to fill in my French tax return. (And with Windows you have to be an administrator for their java app to work properly.) As I said, just providing a certificate as a .exe is a good way to make using that certificate without Windows relatively difficult.

See here [interieur.gouv.fr] for the .exe certificate example (link 2).

Re:Before we get too excited (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16317927)

bullshit #1
SSL certificates aren't provided in .exe format. I wonder how I would have done to pay online my taxes on my linux ? Using wine ? lol

bullshit #2
Online Tax service doesn't ask to ignore any security warning. It just ask you to accept to run the java applet.

Don't drink too much if you cannot take it.. you better smoke m****

try again pti melon

Why doesn't this sort of thing happen more often ? (4, Insightful)

Shadukar (102027) | more than 7 years ago | (#16317767)

"Change is always forthcoming, except from a vending machine"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So yeah, big cheers to the French government. they are definitely doing the right thing, in the right way.

Re:Why doesn't this sort of thing happen more ofte (3, Insightful)

pandrijeczko (588093) | more than 7 years ago | (#16317923)

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

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

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

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

Re:Why doesn't this sort of thing happen more ofte (1)

Fred_A (10934) | more than 7 years ago | (#16318067)

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

In my experience, it certainly is the main hurdle that OSS have to face. It's not being open, free, or whatever else, it's being different from what the people were using up to there.

For a lot of readers here, a new OS or a new piece of software is a new playground that is fun to explore. For most users it's like a nasty corner of town at night (and it looks like rain too). It's not rational but then people seldom are.

Re:Why doesn't this sort of thing happen more ofte (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16318775)

perfectly said. MS wants total market dominance. they decide to kill all competition, and also they want to decide that everyone pays them their tax. and they blame anyone who cannot afford their fees but still use it illegally as pirates. so, if there's an option they kill it - they are perfectly to blame no one else but themselves for piracy. they are also happy for pirates because some day the pirates will be forced to buy thier stuff whether they can afford it or not. win-win in any case. only thing is that us lemmings have been very very quite about it. switch to linux, OOo, and spread ODF ! hurrah to free sfware and open standards! its happening slowly here and there, but at least a 20% market for alternate products will be a very good: even for windows customers, because internt explorer wont be ignored for another 7 years! and maybe in 2014 be labelled as IE 14!

Mod parent up! (1)

FST777 (913657) | more than 7 years ago | (#16317973)

I have a hard time at work trying to get OOo through. The MS-Office licences we hold aren't even valid and there is no money for buying new ones in budget (small company), but that still isn't enough reason. My boss wants to switch, but his dad (and co-owner) is STRONGLY opposed to it. Not for any particular reason, but only because "I never used anything else, and I'm not going to learn something new now".

Re:Why doesn't this sort of thing happen more ofte (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16317995)

There is the fact that more and more often the MS proprietary formats *don't work*. I don't know if it's particular to governments? Maybe it's because local government seem to have run EVERY version of MS software ever created and to have kept them going longer than MS ever believed, as a result they have versions of .doc and other MS formatted documents from the DOS days and cannot read them. Maybe the churn in business and the tendency to get rid of older documents means businesses don't suffer so much?

Fench ODF (4, Funny)

SeaFox (739806) | more than 7 years ago | (#16317779)

From the InfoWorld article: All French government publications should be made available in OpenDocument Format [CC] (ODF), according to a report commissioned by the French prime minister.
Does that mean we have to start calling it "Freedom Format" in the U.S.?

Re:Fench ODF (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16317877)

Once more (I keep telling people about that), fries are *not* french, they are belgium. Oh well, not that I care, I just like to point this out for the sake of correctness.

Re:Fench ODF (1)

prefect42 (141309) | more than 7 years ago | (#16318559)

Or belgian even, for the sake of correctness. ;)

Re:Fench ODF (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16318267)

No, you USians call it the "500 pound gorilla with cheese", also known as Steve Ballmer and MS Office.

Cheese... (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16318451)

No, you USians call it the "500 pound gorilla with cheese", also known as Steve Ballmer and MS Office.

No, no, no... If it's Steve Ballmer we are talking about it's a "500 pound gorilla with a chair" not cheese, a chair...

Re:Fench ODF (1)

rozz (766975) | more than 7 years ago | (#16318397)

Does that mean we have to start calling it "Freedom Format" in the U.S.?

u may have to welcome your new freedom overlords too ;)
and if u study a bit of history, u will realize that wont be the first time either .. just check the connections between the founding fathers and the french revolutionaries, remember where the statue of liberyty is coming from, etc...

I foresee a problem (1)

tygerstripes (832644) | more than 7 years ago | (#16317931)

Where will the EU get the money for such a centre of innovation? They're already putting money into fining M$, so... ooooh, I see.

Not at all (1)

andersh (229403) | more than 7 years ago | (#16318145)

I have to point out that the EU is NOT the government of Europe. And that the national governments of member nations like France are not like U.S. states! It means the EU fines go towards the EU budget whilst any French government bureau is financed by French taxes and regulated by French law.

Re:Not at all (1)

Kijori (897770) | more than 7 years ago | (#16318263)

Money from the EU coffers does go towards some member states though, for example through the Common Agricultural Policy.

Re:Not at all (1)

tygerstripes (832644) | more than 7 years ago | (#16318335)

I know. I live there too. It was a joke. I don't think anybody really expects the fines to be funnelled directly into anti-proprietary avenues. Just imagine the PR stink...

Re:I foresee a problem (1)

enrevanche (953125) | more than 7 years ago | (#16318555)

Even though this is not really the case, it would be just if it happened as MS has removed many billions of dollars from the European economy through its deceptive and illegal practices.

fair? (-1, Flamebait)

lefstathiou (1009549) | more than 7 years ago | (#16318133)

while most people here im sure hate microsoft, it kind of bothers me that europe is increasingly resorting to government mandated efforts to battle against american companies. yes it is smart on their part to stop being so reliant on american technology companies, but this action coupled with the tariffs and fines they are leveraging against many US companies are showing signs of a negative trend to me.

Re:fair? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16318327)

What prevents MS from implementing ODF filters in Office? If that's what's used in Europe then they should - just as they have to have A4 as the standard paper size in Office (+ other localization features). Besides, the EU has fined European companies for much larger amounts but the MS case has probably been in the news in the US more than any of the others (and MS has put up more resistance than any other company).

Re:fair? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16319029)

You mean, like the US imposing a 80% import tax on steet? Or outlawing Internet gambling sites?

much more hardcore (1)

spectrokid (660550) | more than 7 years ago | (#16319091)

Been flippin' through the report. This is not just about ODF. His proposition 3.7:
Compléter le mémorandum pour une Europe numérique, en proposant à nos partenaires européens d'établir l'interopérabilité comme règle de droit commun fondamental en matière de développement informatique.

This calls for making IT interoperability a "fundamental rule of common law". Somebody 'sgonna be kissing their secret network protocols goodbye! The report also calls for closer cooperation with the Russians, proposes a legal framework for RFID, explains the GPL, promotes the Quaero project...
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