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Texas Bill For Open Documents

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the et-tu-texas? dept.

Software 197

Ditesh Kumar tips us to a blog entry by Sam Hiser noting a bill filed in Texas that would require state agencies to conduct their work in an open document format. After Microsoft's grueling battle against ODF in Massachusetts, bluest of blue states, it must be galling to face te same fight in the reddest of the red. Hiser notes that the bill includes a rigorous and sound definition of an open document format, which ODF would meet but Microsoft's current OOXML submission would not.

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Reddest? (4, Funny)

greg_barton (5551) | more than 7 years ago | (#17915512)

...it must be galling to face te same fight in the reddest of the red.
Obviously you've never been to Alabama.

Re:Reddest? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17915566)

First of all, Neil Young got it right about Alabama.

Second - don't mess with TEXAS!!

Re:Reddest? (1)

He Who Has No Name (768306) | more than 7 years ago | (#17916664)

For the love of God, please, listen to him.

DON'T MESS WITH TEXAS - you might catch it too.

Utah has 'Bama Pwned! (2, Funny)

BlackGriffen (521856) | more than 7 years ago | (#17915730)

Utah: 71% Bush in 04
Alabama: 63% Bush

Re:Utah has 'Bama Pwned! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17916602)

Utah: 71% Bush in 04
How many times does each wife get to vote?

Re:Reddest? (1)

SydShamino (547793) | more than 7 years ago | (#17916690)

Moreover, Texas is predicted to be a swing state within 10 years, due to demographics shifts from legal immigration.

(Legal immigration, obviously, since this is concerning voting.)

Re:Reddest? (4, Interesting)

Rimbo (139781) | more than 7 years ago | (#17916998)

Or Austin, for that matter.

Austin's about as red as the Santa Fe sky on a clear afternoon, or Australia's Coral Coast. Add to that a bunch of tech industry, a huge university and about 2000 miles between it and Redmond, and this is hardly surprising.

Austin's where I first heard about Linux... in January of 1992. Slackware was on sale in the University co-op a year or so later. And it's where I first used USENET, IRC and internet e-mail, way back in 1991.

Hell frozen over? (4, Funny)

DaveM753 (844913) | more than 7 years ago | (#17915546)

I never thought I'd say something like this, but GO TEXAS!

Re:Hell frozen over? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17915596)

ditto

Is this that big of a deal? (1, Offtopic)

User 956 (568564) | more than 7 years ago | (#17915728)

I never thought I'd say something like this, but GO TEXAS!

Well, given that one third of texas students don't graduate high school [khou.com] , how documents written by their state government are actually coherent enough that the file format makes a difference?

Re:Is this that big of a deal? (2, Informative)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 7 years ago | (#17916790)

That story along with the study is a little misleading. If you look past the sensationalism and to the meat of it, you will quickly find that the intercultural Development Research Association is only concerned with students who recieve a diploma in public schools and compare that to enrolment from a previous set of years back to 8th or 9th grade. On the surface, this looks sound but it doesn't count the students who leave the state and finish school somewhere else nor does it count the student who leave the public school system and enter a private or charter school.

In fact, the organization apears to be centered around develpoing way to keep kids in public schools so leaving the student who recieve a diploma from private or home schooling seems to be on purpose. You can find out all about the study and the details from thier website and all you need to do is google fo it. It will be one of the first results. They don't try to hide the fact they are doing this. But they don't neccesarily advertise it either.

Now, I'm not going to say that there isn't a drop out problem because I really have no way of knowing how many student went to home schooling, charter schools, private schools in general or even out of state to finish schooling and recieve their diplomas. I tried searching for the number to see how they compared to public school and they apear to be tracked and reported differently. To skip the details about all the different numbers, I did find a site which seems to include most of the alternative schools wich shows to be about 17% of the number of students attending traditional public schools.

And we might ask why this is important. Well, if the obscenly large number of drop outs don't include the alternative schooled kids, then the numbers aren't as bad as they seem (might still be bad though). And this information is most interesting considering that in texas, there has been a grass roots movment for private, charter, and alternative schools as well as vouchers to help student who wouldn't neccesarily afford them attend. In 95, a law was passed setting the stage for an explosion in charter schools and home schoolong. In 96, houstan set a program in place that allows student to tranfere to private non sectarien schools on the cities dime becuse it was cheaper then the fix for the overcrowdingof the schools. In 97, th charter schools laws were expanded to enlarge the cap allowing more to be dommisioned. It took the cap away for districs marked as at risk. In 98, it is reported that the school vouchers idea had at least 54% of the public supporting them. In 1998, the Texas CEO Foundation who had been providing scholorships for private schooling since 92, has made a scholarship available to every low-income child in the predominantly Hispanic Edgewood Independent School District to attend a school of choice. And finaly, although the vouchers never recieved finding by the state, A number of private organizations have step forward with scholorships to students wishing to leave the public school system.

I'm sure this didn't just pop up over night either. It is something that has been building momentum for quite a while. This could account for some of the missing students in public education that are considered dropouts. This could also be a key reason why the article you refrenced stated that the study showed the drop out rate as beinghigher then the stats reported dropout rate. The article claims The statewide dropout rate is about 33 percent -- or 20 points higher than what the Texas Education Agency reports. , the numbers I found of students who are in private schooling [heritage.org] are 241,674 in 2003 were the public schools are 4,259,823. And that seems to be around 17% or so percent. And a larger portion of the target audience for the scholorships seem to be minorities which reflect the drop out rates too.

The resulting rates after taking these into account might still be alarming. But it definatly isn't as bad as it first apears.

Re:Hell frozen over? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17916314)

Yes, yes it has. It snowed here on Friday...as in the white, fluffy stuff that falls from the sky and should be thrown in balls at others...

Check the author (5, Funny)

ZPWeeks (990417) | more than 7 years ago | (#17915562)

It may be Texas, but the bill was filed by Rubén Hinojosa, a Democrat representative from the U.S. House. They'll shoot it down. (unless Cheney misses and hits MS OOXML by accident.)

Go figure (3, Informative)

ChromeAeonium (1026952) | more than 7 years ago | (#17915828)

It may be Texas, but the bill was filed by Rubén Hinojosa, a Democrat representative from the U.S. House. They'll shoot it down.
...and that's why George Washington said to stay far away from political parties. I love how well America listened.

Re:Check the author (5, Funny)

pallmall1 (882819) | more than 7 years ago | (#17915866)

They'll shoot it down.
You're probably right. A $500 Million Microsoft datacenter [lockergnome.com] in San Antonio, Texas probably also means Microsoft's OOXML for Texas documents. Ballmer aims his furniture better than Chaney aims his shotgun. :)

Re:Check the author (5, Interesting)

yo_tuco (795102) | more than 7 years ago | (#17916424)

"Texas probably also means Microsoft's OOXML for Texas documents.

Some years ago Microsoft threated the city of Huston [usatoday.com] to sign up for a multiyear, $12 million software licensing plan or face an audit exposing the city's use of software it hadn't paid for.

But as it turned out, Huston had more than enough proof of purchase seals. And then they voted to dump Microsoft Office in favor of SimDesk because of Microsoft's gestapo tactics. I don't know if that's still true today and I doubt SimDesk supports OOXML. So not all parts of Texas are friends of Microsoft.

Re:Check the author (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17916920)

Might that be the company the was featured in a quadrilogy on the DailyWTF recently?

Re:Check the author (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17916986)

That's the one.

Re:Check the author (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17917030)

Ouch. MS got dumped for a company that made their product using VB6 and Magic: The Gathering.

Check Again...... (2, Informative)

cary67 (1060860) | more than 7 years ago | (#17917012)

The author made a mistake, which has been corrected. The bill was submitted by Juan Hinojosa, State Senator from District 20

Makes Sense (2, Insightful)

inphorm (604192) | more than 7 years ago | (#17915620)

As much as I like MS (well I like it because all it's problems give me a job, fixing them for various people.. I don't use it at home though.. haha), Open Documents make much more sense, rather than trying to lock users in to using 1 particular package.

Queue MS bashers here.. haha

Can I just say here (to play the devil's advocate) MS isn't the only company that uses Anti-Competitive methods or tries to lock users into their product. ipods anyone?

Things like this keep companies like MS and others on their toes. I also believe that companies have a right to profit from products they create, only if they do it ethically though.

- paul

http://www.paulpichugin.com.au/ [paulpichugin.com.au]

Re:Makes Sense (2, Insightful)

wall0159 (881759) | more than 7 years ago | (#17916352)

"MS isn't the only company that uses Anti-Competitive methods or tries to lock users into their product. ipods anyone?"

there's a big difference between DRM that's specific to a device (that's right - tracks from the ITMS are the _only_ lock-in to the ipod, which also plays mp3 and AAC - open formats), and software that results in lock-in on content that you create yourself.

I'm no fan of DRM or the ITMS, but the lock-in to the ipod is no worse than that of any other music player!

better even (1)

chrwei (771689) | more than 7 years ago | (#17916388)

since you can install a different OS on many iPods and play whatever the hell you want, including ogg vorbis.

Re:Makes Sense (1)

inphorm (604192) | more than 7 years ago | (#17916444)

Nice one.. it was meant to be a general comment, not a specific example.. obviously I used a poor example, because no one is forcing anyone to use a particular format for the ipod, you don't even really have to use itunes with an ipod.

That said, if you buy an ipod, you are pretty much stuck in the ipod hardware in terms of music you have legally downloaded, as itunes sells music in their own format that locks itself to your particular ipod, so if you go and buy another brand music player, you can't easily transfer the music to it. I'm talking about the average user, not tech heads who read slashdot ;)

Overall though, Apple's corporate ehtics aren't all that much better than Microsoft, HP, Dell, Intel or any other major corporation. I'm not defending Microsoft, just pointing out that a lot of other companies use similar tactics to try and lock in their customers.

- paul

http://www.paulpichugin.com.au/ [paulpichugin.com.au]

Re:Makes Sense (4, Insightful)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 7 years ago | (#17916918)

When the government start using Ipod only files to distribute and interact with documents I need in order to do business in the state, I'll start bitching a bit louder about the Ipod. But I shouldn't need to purchase a $400 program to interact with a state on a fundemental level. I shouldn't have to do this to do business in the state either, even if the business is with others in the state and we just need to get permit aprovals and such.

And I know, there are alternative ways to interact. But the end result would be either pony up the dough or suffer an unfair competitive advantage to your competitors because of the states decision that is funded by my tax dollars.

And the refusial to pay, isn't even a decision over the money needed, it is about principle. Sooner or later we will have enough little $400 for this program, 200 for that program and so on. Before long, a person will have to have thoughsands of dollars just for programs to do business. And it might not stop at doing business, what about complaints and such. Shoudl a person need to pay a microsoft tax to fill out a complaint form or ask the state/city to fix something they should have already fixed? I know, I'm rambling. Your point is still valid but i see it in different levels. Hopfully other can too.

Re:Makes Sense (1)

inphorm (604192) | more than 7 years ago | (#17917014)

I hadn't even really thought about it to that depth, then again I'm just a contractor, the limit of my interaction with the government is paying tax and trying to claim back as much as I can. Although at the moment I'm contracting for the department of education.. I finish wednesday, which I am looking forward to.

Thanks for your comment, gives me something to think about. My previous thoughts were just for posterity, we may need to be able to open these documents in 10 - 15 years time or even longer, we have no idea if MS will even be around then, some would say hopefully not. I would say hopefully, but in a less dominate position, a position where they are forced to actually compete and produce a top quality product to do so.

- paul

http://www.paulpichugin.com.au/ [paulpichugin.com.au]

Let's get the ball rolling! (5, Insightful)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 7 years ago | (#17915622)

With Massachusetts, bunches of foreign governments, and now Texas realizing the importance of document formats that are Free, future proof, and equally accessible to all citizens (including those who don't use Windows), I think it's about time the other forty-eight states introduced similar bills of their own. I just wrote an email suggesting such to my representative; now it's your turn!

Re:Let's get the ball rolling! (1)

inphorm (604192) | more than 7 years ago | (#17915674)

I have to agree 100%, here in Australia they have just moved to using PDFs for all Government documents and are working on going to completely open documents.

Oh and I love your sig by the way.. :)

- paul

http://www.paulpichugin.com.au/ [paulpichugin.com.au]

Re:Let's get the ball rolling! (1)

Vombatus (777631) | more than 7 years ago | (#17916184)

here in Australia they have just moved to using PDFs for all Government documents and are working on going to completely open documents.

Can you cite a source for these claims please?

There are still lots and lots of proprietary format documents available for download on lots of websites in the gov.au domain. I know that the National Archives of Australia is busy working out how to convert proprietary formatted documents into open document formats (for those documents warranting long term retention). For them (or anyone else in government) to mandate the exclusive use of open document formats would be an amazing thing.

Re:Let's get the ball rolling! (2, Informative)

inphorm (604192) | more than 7 years ago | (#17916234)

I am currently working for the Queensland Department of Education, we are working on implementing a whole of government initiative to move all documents and standards to PDF. I have no news sites to quote or anything of the sort. There is a group called CorpTech that are pushing this initiative. It is a project that is due for completion this year.

- paul

http://www.paulpichugin.com.au/ [paulpichugin.com.au]

Mod parent up (1)

turing_m (1030530) | more than 7 years ago | (#17916166)

It's about all those things. Another way of stating "future proof" is that these documents should be easily read by anyone in the future, for all time. Government is right to step in. I'm just surprised that it is happening somewhere in the USA so soon.

Re:Let's get the ball rolling! (1)

Nail (1195) | more than 7 years ago | (#17916470)

Here is a bill submitted in Minnesota:

    http://ros.leg.mn/bin/bldbill.php?bill=H0176.0.htm l&session=ls85 [ros.leg.mn]

on reading it, I don't know if I like it, but the authors heart may be in the right place.

Or maybe they just want a Ferrari...

Re:Let's get the ball rolling! (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 7 years ago | (#17916564)

Wow, that's great -- that bill has exactly (almost word-for-word) the same four requirements as the Texas one! You should submit that as a story -- if the Texas one made the front page, this should too.

I'm a Texan! Who do I write to? (1)

erroneus (253617) | more than 7 years ago | (#17915638)

I happen to work for a company that builds schools. This change would affect my work to some degree as well. I just want to know who I can write to in order to support the move. It would also be helpful if someone more clever than myself wrote up a letter from which I can extact key points and write my own. (If hundreds of people wrote the same letter, I think it wouldn't be as meaningful somehow.)

In any case, I'm ready to start my letter-writing campaign in support of this move.

Re:I'm a Texan! Who do I write to? (4, Informative)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 7 years ago | (#17915716)

Well, I'm not a Texan, but since it's a bill in the Texas state Senate, I figure you probably ought to contact your state Senator.

Also, since it's going to have to get out of committee before anyone else sees it (unless your state government is unusual), you could contact the other Senators who make up whichever committee it goes into -- which, based on a 10-second scan of the list of committees, I'm guessing is this one [state.tx.us] . But I could be wrong.

Well, it is obvious that you are not from Texas. (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17916264)

Contact any of the oil or gas companies in Houston and find somebody who has one or more congressmen attached to their zipper. Big Oil talks. Next up would be go to Austin or San Antonio and try to find the same (not so many, but still useful).In Texas, plain folks talking to a Texas congressman will produce less movement than talking to a corpose.

Re:I'm a Texan! Who do I write to? (2, Funny)

danWeasel (619358) | more than 7 years ago | (#17916162)

You could write to Rick Perry and ask him to executive order it into policy. (Except where religious or personal reasons prevent.)

We're not that red. (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17915642)

Come by Austin sometime. We're a pocket of blue in a red state. Sort of like West Berlin during the Cold War. Lots of bikers trying to save the Earth getting run over by Republicans and their lobbyists en route to the Capitol or their posh homes in hill country.

But seriously, our state legislature can easily be depicted as a herd of clowns riding a fire truck. And anyone who thinks that our office of Governor gives someone the experience needed for higher office is just clueless. It's really just a figurehead position. G. W. Bush usually spent his days as governor playing video games or on vacation. Much like now.

Keep Austin Weird!

and you aren't that relevant either (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17916850)

Enjoy your trans texas corridor. I'll bet they really will let you ride your bike on it too..really.

texas-save 20 mil a year using open documents

lose 150 billion building unneeded, expensive, privately owned toll roads, and close off a lot of the existing roads. And yepperz, still make you pay a road fuel tax as well. (and even if you personally ride a bike, 100% of your tangible reality gets delivered to you via burning dino-doo and trucks. So that means, all your prices for everything will go up drastically-despite your bicycles and despite any open documents.

ya, sounds like a good trade

One thing everybody can agree on. (1)

WiiVault (1039946) | more than 7 years ago | (#17915700)

This seems to me to be one of the best examples of how Open formats are best for everybody. I'm really glad that Texas and Mass. are both on the same page. I just hope that this helps spur the feds to do the same. Imagine a world where a $400 copy of Office wasn't a required computing cost!

"Red" and "blue" is irrelevant (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17915718)

This just goes to show that Free Software is not a democrat or republicrat thing. (Remember, Microsoft itself is in one of the 'bluer' states.)

The real issue here is freedom, and the benefits that can be derived from it: Better security, lower upfront costs, less obsolescence, open formats, and the ability to choose between software packages and providers, rather than just taking whatever Microsoft shoves down your throat.

the colors got swapped and the stands changed (1)

r00t (33219) | more than 7 years ago | (#17916482)

Prior to the last few elections, red was always used for the democrats. At the time the republicans favored freedom more and the democrats were all about big government, so the association of the democrats with the reds (communists) was fitting.

Re:the colors got swapped and the stands changed (1)

MoxFulder (159829) | more than 7 years ago | (#17916858)

Prior to the last few elections, red was always used for the democrats. At the time the republicans favored freedom more and the democrats were all about big government, so the association of the democrats with the reds (communists) was fitting.
No, this is not true. The colors used to draw political divide on maps are not meant to symbolize the political leanings of the parties in any way. They were chosen arbitrarily by TV networks, and there was no agreed-on color scheme prior to the year 2000... that's why nobody talked about "red states"/"blue states" until then.

For the convoluted history of the red/blue color scheme, read this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_state_vs._blue_st ate_divide#Origins_of_current_color_scheme [wikipedia.org]

Re:the colors got swapped and the stands changed (1)

r00t (33219) | more than 7 years ago | (#17916972)

Your wikipedia link supports me rather well. Perhaps you should read it again, to the very end.

CBS was backwards, ABC couldn't decide and liked yellow... but other than that it was pretty much red for the democrats and blue for the republicans. This goes back to 1888. It is followed for similar conservative/libral divisions in numerous other countries.

There is something here... (2, Interesting)

bogaboga (793279) | more than 7 years ago | (#17915720)

To me, this is one of the very good pieces of news this year. As the introduction mentions Massachusetts is one of the bluest of blue states and Texas is on the "other" side.

Question: How will each of these states' approach to this `open formats' "problem" be similar and how will it be different if one dares to compare and of course speculate?

Put it on my Texas Bill (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17915726)

Texas Bill is nothing in the face of Texas Pete. Superted [wikipedia.org] forever!

State-sponsored OSS in Texas is reality already (4, Informative)

pongo000 (97357) | more than 7 years ago | (#17915736)

Unfortunately, it's in the form of a recommendation [state.tx.us] , but it's better than nothing. In a nutshell, it directs Texas state agencies and higher education institutions to consider OSS for all IT procurements. I believe it was originally the brainchild of a Dallas-area senator named John Corona.

I referenced it quite often while pushing for OSS-based IT implementation at the college I was teaching at...most administrators were ignorant that this even existed.

Re:State-sponsored OSS in Texas is reality already (2, Funny)

GaryOlson (737642) | more than 7 years ago | (#17915902)

The Texas higher education institutions already make heavy use of OSS. Our budgets don't allow us to afford anything else....except, of course, for UT Austin who can walk across the street to wine, dine, and whine the Texas Legislature.

Re:State-sponsored OSS in Texas is reality already (2, Interesting)

pongo000 (97357) | more than 7 years ago | (#17915972)

Actually, it's been my experience that many are still in the dark ages when it comes to OSS. Imagine one of the 5 largest community college districts in the country still pushing proprietary (and patented!) online education at the tune of millions of dollars a year in taxpayer money. Four-years are no different (ever try to find a LyX layout/LaTeX class for a disseration? La-what?)

I've presented at several regional (Texas) conferences on various aspects of OSS in higher ed, and have talked to many, many people affiliated with higher education. I'm sorry, but I've never gotten the idea that OSS is in "heavy use" in Texas colleges. I'm sure there are "pockets of resistance," but by and large, Texas colleges are very much in bed with proprietary software vendors.

Re:State-sponsored OSS in Texas is reality already (1)

GaryOlson (737642) | more than 7 years ago | (#17916104)

UT Software Purchasing in Austin generously purchases commercial volume licenses for all UT systems [utexas.edu] . Free (relatively speaking) is hard to turn down.

As I said...walk across the street to wine, dine and whine the Texas Legislature is easier in Austin.

Reddest of the red? (2, Funny)

hansamurai (907719) | more than 7 years ago | (#17915750)

What's Slashdot going to do now that it has used the reddest of the red and the bluest of the blue for states? Northest of the north? Bestest of the best? Openest of the open?

Redundanced of the redundant (3, Funny)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 7 years ago | (#17915778)

Mod -1

Re:Redundanced of the redundant (1)

hansamurai (907719) | more than 7 years ago | (#17915974)

Zingest of the zings!

Re:Reddest of the red? (1)

ZiZ (564727) | more than 7 years ago | (#17915814)

Yessest of the yes, Iest of the I agreest of the agree. Thisest of the this isest of the is aest of the a problemest of the problem.

Who is this Texas Bill? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17915764)

Cowboy Neal's sidekick?

OOXML and ISO approval (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17915772)

Hi folks,

Microsoft went for ISO fast-track approval which allows only one month for dissenting countries to speak out (and with 6000 pages in the spec it's not enough time -- there hasn't been any public standardisation prior to this fast track as is normal with fast-tracked standards).

Anyway, as I understand it there only needs to be one single vote against in order to force a fast-tracked proposal down the long and arduous path of open evaluation, analysis, and justification. Canada and Britain have voted against Microsoft. Thanks Canada, thanks Britain!

OOXML is now considerably more shakey with governments around the world, and other countries, like Texas.

-- Matt Carter

Re:OOXML and ISO approval (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17916268)

Groklaw says "The British Standards Institute, which represents the UK with the International Standards Organisation, has issued what is called a " contradiction" to Microsoft's specification."

Re:OOXML and ISO approval (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17916370)

Texas is not a country, not matter how much Texans would like to think it is.

Re:OOXML and ISO approval (1)

swillden (191260) | more than 7 years ago | (#17916546)

Texas is not a country, not matter how much Texans would like to think it is.

I can see you've never been there.

Hi, y'all (2, Funny)

Texas Bill (1060854) | more than 7 years ago | (#17915822)

Ah'd like to make it clear as the wide blue sky that Ah am indeed for open documents. We've got to stop those Mahcruhsowft bush-whackers afore they've done rustled off all ahr fahn computers. Wah, Ah'd even make common cause with them damyankees from Barstn. Any foe of Redmond Bill is durn tootin' a friend of mine!

Thank y'all fer yer time.

One "open" format versus another... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17915834)

I always say beware of that for which you crusade. The majority of people fighting for "open document formats" do so as they see it as a way to exercise (or exorcise) their hatred of Microsoft. A minority do so precisely because the "open" formats are those that MS can't handle, using open formats as a front for requiring folks to abandon office.

The entire point of an open format is that anyone can read it and anyone can write it.

Why rant and rave against another open format that is as documented as your own?

Do not overlook the financial gain that some are making off of this move to push alternatives to Office. Many use the words "open" and "free" when they really are just shilling for their own contracting gain.

Beware of anyone promising "the one true way" in a quest that exchanges one evil for another.

ed

What do legislators really want? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17915854)

I keep seeing this "____ government wants open document formats". What's their real motivation for this? No legislator really gives a flying fuck about Linux, open source, open office, or the EFF. I think all they really care about is "if we threaten to leave, microsoft will give us some sweet swag". The whole faux ODF argument they use is just a means to the squeeze. MS comes across with a hundred free licenses, probably some nice ferarri notebooks for the legislators themselves, and they rub their hands as they head to the bank.

Re:What do legislators really want? (1)

inphorm (604192) | more than 7 years ago | (#17916190)

While your comments are highly cynical, they are absolutely true. If not in the US, then definitely here in Australia. We had a government initiative (an oxymoron if I've ever heard one), a few years ago, to move the whole of government over to open source operating systems, including servers. In the state I live in (Queensland, not denial, as many people believe) that's over 400,000 desktops just in the education department, there the rest of the state government as well.

Microsoft had a rethink of the strategy they were using, dropped the prices for the government, threw in some more support for servers and all sorts of other things and all of a sudden, the government has a change of mind and also givs MS some tax breaks.. go figure.

- paul

http://www.paulpichugin.com.au/ [paulpichugin.com.au]

Re:What do legislators really want? (3, Insightful)

MoxFulder (159829) | more than 7 years ago | (#17916936)

Microsoft had a rethink of the strategy they were using, dropped the prices for the government, threw in some more support for servers and all sorts of other things and all of a sudden, the government has a change of mind and also givs MS some tax breaks.. go figure.
You (and others) often use this as evidence that open source initiatives don't really work. In my mind, that's not really clear. I mean, in your example, competition from open source has in fact forced Microsoft to reduce prices, improve support, and maybe provide better docs. Of course you and I would prefer Microsoft get dumped all at once, but I believe that progress has being made. The fact that government initiatives in favor of open source have forced Microsoft to negotiate better deals DEMONSTRATES that open source has influence and strength.

Re:What do legislators really want? (1)

inphorm (604192) | more than 7 years ago | (#17917084)

Absolutely, I agree nearly 100% except for the part about seeing MS dumped completely. What I would like to see is a few viable alternatives that are happy to talk to other platforms and OSs, including moving documents and files inbetween each platform.

Also I'd like to see Microsoft forced into competing in terms of putting out a quality product that has to compete with these viable alternatives. Alternatives that the typical end user can use, not tech heads.

Its a big call and is a fair way off at the moment, linux is making some decent progress, but it's a little way off being a completely viable alternative for non-tech people.

I'm not anti microsoft or any other company, I'm happy that a company does well and makes money, but I'd prefer if were done ethically and due to having a quality product that is best value for money.

I guess I'm after a level playing field.. which only exists in sport.. lol

- paul

http://www.paulpichugin.com.au/ [paulpichugin.com.au]

Re:What do legislators really want? (2, Informative)

mackyrae (999347) | more than 7 years ago | (#17916382)

At the Congressional Internet Caucus last week there was a group from tux.org (affiliation of LUGs) with a table demonstrating how thanks to open standards like for the web, Linux, Mac, and Windows computers can all communicate just fine. They were there to push for open standards. I hung out with them for a lot of it (though the digitalfreedom.org people were cool too), and there were a lot of people from the Senate asking about why open standards are important (though it WAS in the Hart Building). There were also quite a few people asking about Linux in education, ease of use for students, what to do for commercial support, etc.

Re:What do legislators really want? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17916452)

At the Congressional Internet Caucus last week there was a group from tux.org (affiliation of LUGs) with a table...

And then strangely enough, Steve Ballmer turned up with a chair.

Re:What do legislators really want? (1)

chrwei (771689) | more than 7 years ago | (#17916468)

that may be a side effect, but he stronger motivator may be that they remember the problems going from Office 2 to 97 to 2000 to 2003 and all the file format problems that caused. And while MS does have a converter that is supposed to work as far back as Office 97, we all know how well converters actually work, might as well open them in OOo anyway, it certainly won't be worse than the ooxml converters. But is MS is going to practically give them Office 2007 to "fix" this problem, well, problem solved right? or at least it'll be someone else's problem in a few years anyway.

Re:What do legislators really want? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17916660)

It seems that governments and standards bodies all over the world view this topic with far more "real motivation" than you assume.

http://www.consortiuminfo.org/standardsblog/articl e.php?story=20070206145620473 [consortiuminfo.org]

A record level of protest against a proposed standard.

I'm not surprised (1)

cryfreedomlove (929828) | more than 7 years ago | (#17915858)

Texas is a conservative state and conservative values call for open and unfettered competition. This is what I expected would happen.

Re:I'm not surprised (1)

Harmonious Botch (921977) | more than 7 years ago | (#17916092)

It's just a coincidence. In Texas, competion is done with guns.

Why not OpenXML? (1, Insightful)

pdschmid (916837) | more than 7 years ago | (#17915890)

The author is pretty dismissive about OpenXML, yet doesn't explain why OpenXML wouldn't meet the criteria. The bill would take effect December 1, 2007. By then OpenXML will probably be an ISO standard and there will probably be more than one adaptation of it (Novell is working on one for OpenOffice). So:
  1. "interoperable among diverse internal and external platforms and applications": Doesn't really say whether this interoperability has to be possible or whether such platforms and applications have to already exist. Also, it is to be expected for internal ones that the support for the open format would have to be implemented first. Then of course, what is meant with "diverse". Does two count as diverse? Does it need to be three, four, five,...? This is vague and very open to interpretation.
  2. "published without restrictions or royalties": OpenXML already fulfills this today
  3. "fully and independently implemented by multiple software providers on multiple platforms without any intellectual property reservations for necessary technology": Once Novell did it for OpenXML, there will be three vendors (Novell, Microsoft and the open-source project doing the ODF-OpenXML converter) on multiple platforms (Windows & all platforms OpenOffice runs on). Sounds like OpenXML has this one in the pocket as well.
  4. "controlled by an open industry organization with a well-defined inclusive process for evolution of the standard": Ecma is such a body. But for all skeptics, once OpenXML is an ISO standard in 6 months or so, this will be a given.

Re:Why not OpenXML? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17916094)

You are quite the fool to believe that OpenXML is as documented and implementable as ODF. MS believes that documenting a function as "Should work like Word-97 spacing bug" as sufficient.

That is not a standard, that is just a list of all the bugs in the MS code, which no one should really try to emulate.

Re:Why not OpenXML? (5, Informative)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 7 years ago | (#17916138)

The author is pretty dismissive about OpenXML, yet doesn't explain why OpenXML wouldn't meet the criteria.

Okay, then I will instead:

OpenXML doesn't meet the criteria because parts of it are patented. Besides, even if it weren't patented parts of the "standard" essentially say "re-implement the behavior of Word" which, for obvious reasons, is entirely unreasonable and should also disqualify it.

By then OpenXML will probably be an ISO standard...

If this post [slashdot.org] above yours is accurate, no it won't.

"published without restrictions or royalties": OpenXML already fulfills this today

No, you're wrong. Patents qualify as restrictions.

Re:Why not OpenXML? (1)

pdschmid (916837) | more than 7 years ago | (#17916948)

Patents, so what? Microsoft's covenant not to sue means that you can use all of those patents freely in any way without any restrictions and it also means that no other company can go ahead, patent the same stuff and make you pay for it. What do you want more? As long as we have to live with software patents (which are in my opinion just bad), that's the best you'll ever get. Microsoft will take care of enforcing those patents against anyone trying to claim the involved technology as his or her invention while at the same time letting everyone use it for free and without any restrictions.

Re:Why not OpenXML? (1)

iabervon (1971) | more than 7 years ago | (#17916206)

Chances are that OpenXML will get shot down in the ISO process. It's not going fast-track thanks to Britain, and the slow track process goes through the same committee that's just done ODF, and ODF is better in every way than OpenXML. Everybody on the committee except for the Microsoft representative is going to be looking for anything that they should send over to OASIS for ODF 1.2, not looking to approve a conflicting standard with no different useful design goals.

Of course, it would probably be wise for Texas to mandate the use of an ISO-standard document format without picking out ODF in particular. But they should maybe also specify that it should be one where another state government has experience in implementing a migration and supporting users, since this is a useful criterion which will be possible to meet.

Re:Why not OpenXML? (2, Insightful)

daeg (828071) | more than 7 years ago | (#17916322)

Have you actually read any of the OOXML "specs"?

Ecma 376 section 2.8.2.16 (page 1541) "sig (Supported Unicode Subranges and Code Pages)" describes the <w:sig> element whose attributes are all bitmasks. For example, take the attribute csb1:

"Specifies a four digit hexadecimal encoding of the upper 32 bits of the 64-bit code-page bit field that identifies which specific character sets or code pages are supported by the parent font"
Also, do you want attributes in your "open" format to be "useWord2002TableStyleRules" or "truncateFontHeightsLikeWP6" "footnoteLayoutLikeWW8" or "autoSpaceLikeWord95"? Yes, their format wants to support the buggy spacing methods from Word 95.

Of most concern is that if OOXML were the standard, Microsoft will maintain its complete control over government documents. Why? Because it will probably be illegal to switch products to a product that doesn't support the spec 100%.

While I do like the Microsoft Office products more than the other suites (close race now, but Outlook seals it for me), this is just going to screw everyone over.

Re:Why not OpenXML? (3, Insightful)

ozmanjusri (601766) | more than 7 years ago | (#17916368)

By then OpenXML will probably be an ISO standard

No, probably not. Microsoft's attempt at a swift flanking move on our stampede to format freedom has (temporarily) been blocked http://www.computing.co.uk/itweek/news/2173717/ope n-standards-bodies-call-halt [computing.co.uk] .

"published without restrictions or royalties": OpenXML already fulfills this today

Good point. Today yes, OpenXML meets that criteria, but tomorrow may be a different story.

"fully and independently implemented by multiple software providers on multiple platforms without any intellectual property reservations for necessary technology": Once Novell did it for OpenXML, there will be three vendors (Novell, Microsoft and the open-source project doing the ODF-OpenXML converter) on multiple platforms (Windows & all platforms OpenOffice runs on). Sounds like OpenXML has this one in the pocket as well.

Novell is in Microsoft's pocket, and Microsoft is funding the ODF-OpenXML converter. Besides, you forgot to allow for the "without any intellectual property reservations for necessary technology" part, which is not guaranteed with OpenXML.

But for all skeptics, once OpenXML is an ISO standard in 6 months or so, this will be a given.

We'd better wait until then before adopting it then. Mean time, ODF does all of the above, but without any of the "gotchas".

By the way, congratulations on writing a post which very cleverly skirts all the questionable bits of Microsoft's OpenXML push without actually lying. Care to disclose who you work for?

Re:Why not OpenXML? (1)

pdschmid (916837) | more than 7 years ago | (#17916522)

Not sure where the whole patent and IP stuff comes from. Microsoft did issue a covenant not to compete, hence this is a non-issue. Last time I checked, I was employed by a university.

Re:Why not OpenXML? (1)

dave562 (969951) | more than 7 years ago | (#17916726)

Liah!!! Shill. MS Fan boi!!!! =)

I think there is a perception here on /. that anyone who can say anything good about a Microsoft product in a well thought out manner has to be on the MS payroll.

Re:Why not OpenXML? (1)

pdschmid (916837) | more than 7 years ago | (#17916844)

Unfortunately there is. ODF and OpenXML both have their seat on the open document format table, they just happen to be different ones.

Austin != Strongly Red (3, Insightful)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 7 years ago | (#17915892)

Keep in mind Dell, which has been noted recently for the N-Series computers, is also located near Austin. The concept that the incredibly liberal capital Austin introducing progressive bills isn't terribly suprising. If this had been a city council proposition in a small town an hour outside of San Antonio or Tyler, this would be news.

Re:Austin != Strongly Red (1)

JoshJ (1009085) | more than 7 years ago | (#17915978)

Except that if it was a smaller city it wouldn't be nearly as relevant. Your point is valid, though.

Re:Austin != Strongly Red (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17916258)

Keep in mind Dell, which has been noted recently for the N-Series computers, is also located near Austin. ...and AMD and Intel and TI and Freescale and Samsung and National Instruments...

Re:Austin != Strongly Red (1)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 7 years ago | (#17916890)

TI is based out of Dallas. Samsung is... Korean? I believe.

ODF Converter... (2, Interesting)

friedmud (512466) | more than 7 years ago | (#17915982)

I hope Microsoft's newly released ODF converter doesn't mess with Texas's plans... a partly-free solution just doesn't cut it in my eyes.

For me, this is all about the future. Locking up government documents in proprietary formats is a disaster for future generations. We should ideally be scratching them out on cave walls...

Friedmud

In Soviet Texas... (2, Funny)

gsn (989808) | more than 7 years ago | (#17916084)

Documents open you!

Yeehah!

Red State? (4, Insightful)

cary67 (1060860) | more than 7 years ago | (#17916136)

I'm not sure why being a so-called "red state" means that it's people or government agencies are supporters of MS. What does that have to do with anything? Spare me the drivel about the Bush administration caving on the MS anti-trust case. Maybe they did. Maybe I agree. However, the sweeping generalization made by the original poster is simply unsupported. Instead, I would point you to the fact that you're talking about the people who brought you the Boston Tea Party and The Alamo here. It's no surprise. These are Americans standing up against 21st century tyranny. Government users are BIG business for MS and YOUR tax dollars are paying for it. Texans, voice your support for this bill today!

GREASED UP YODA DOLL UP ASS IS PATRIOTIC (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17916178)

I pledge Allegiance to the Doll
of the Greased Up States of Yodarica
and to the Republic for which it shoves,
one nation under Yoda, rectal intrusion,
with anal lube and ass grease for all.

Re:Red State? (1, Informative)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 7 years ago | (#17916364)

I'm not sure why being a so-called "red state" means that it's people or government agencies are supporters of MS.

The Republican Party (note: not just Bush) currently favors the interests of large corporations. Texas is controlled by Republicans. Microsoft is a large corporation. Therefore, Texas supports MS.

Maybe it's not that cut-and-dried, but that's the logical train of thought that would cause people to reasonably assume such.

Re:Red State? (2, Insightful)

cary67 (1060860) | more than 7 years ago | (#17916930)

The Republican Party (note: not just Bush) currently favors the interests of large corporations. Texas is controlled by Republicans. Microsoft is a large corporation. Therefore, Texas supports MS. Maybe it's not that cut-and-dried, but that's the logical train of thought that would cause people to reasonably assume such.

Yes, and Democrats support trial lawyers and labor unions (note: not necessarily regular people) so.... ---insert random logical assumption here.---

The fact that a "blue" state was the first to rebel against MS would seem to undermine your statement. Indeed, assumptions are rarely reasonable or logical.

People are being poisoned by the Red/Blue nonsense. It's hogwash that is intended to divide us and perpetuate a corrupt two-party system. Reality is not always what TV says it is. California is "blue" but I lived in Riverside County, which voted something like 2:1 to elect Bush. Now I live in "red" Texas, but can attest that Austin is overflowing with "blue" people.

Not Texas!!! what will liberals brag about now? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17916400)

Wow, for such a backward, "Big Oil"-controlled, red state this is really progressive. I guess even the Democrats in Texas have some sense. What's more surprising is this was posted on Slashdot given the moderators' propensity for only posting heavily left-leaning, anti-Bush articles. Someone asleep at the wheel in the control room?? How could you let something pro-Texas be posted to the front page? Gosh.

A nice change (0, Offtopic)

yamamushi (903955) | more than 7 years ago | (#17916598)

It's a nice change from the recent mandatory vaccination bullshit that just went into effect. Gov. Perry put mandatory HPV vaccinations into effect, bypassing the legislature. So now all girls 11 and 12, have to get vaccinated. The catch is that only one company is producing the vaccinations, and this company just so happened to donate a lot to Perry's recent campaign. But thats all off topic, I hope something like ODF goes through here in TX.

Re:A nice change (1)

WiiVault (1039946) | more than 7 years ago | (#17916692)

As a close friend of a girl who got HPV from a boyfriend who was an un-suspecting carrier all I can say is thank god. I know about the financial ties but I don't even care every woman in American should get it. Look up the research on cervical cancer. This will save the taxpayer a TON of money over having to cover these women when cancer develops.

Blue? Red? (1)

Brandybuck (704397) | more than 7 years ago | (#17916686)

Open formats (as well as Free Software, etc.) have nothing whatsoever to do with red or blue states, liberals or conservatives, Republicans or Democrats. Stop trying to make this an us-vs-them issue.

p.s. Besides, Utah is much redder than Texas.

face te facts (1)

1u3hr (530656) | more than 7 years ago | (#17916710)

From the summary: face te same fight. How hard is it to spellcheck?

Texas is heavy on computers (2, Informative)

bahwi (43111) | more than 7 years ago | (#17916788)

Say what you will about the political climate here(very red) but a lot of stuff is online and sped up by computers. Last year when I incorporated I used the online website, paid the $300 fee with my debit card, and the paperwork was done and I was sent everything with the seal and all the appropriate numbers within two hours via e-mail in PDF format, completely official and everything. Paying corp taxes couldn't be easier(few that there be), ditto with unemployment. If I have to do anything that affects my corp, pretty much everything is online and an option to be filed. And it's all done by the state.

Getting my federal EIN meant going through a third party company, paying a fee(only $20, so I figured might as well instead of waiting for the feds to get it to me in a few weeks by doing it on paper). It works really well. I renew my drivers license online(every other renewal only, gotta get new pics at some point) and my vehicle registration is always done online. In terms of computing it's a very progressive state. Much of it is very basic HTML so it works in whatever browser you use it with.

Yeehaw (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17916798)

My name is Texas Bill, and I am for open documents.

TexasBill
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