OOXML update

A while ago I’ve posted about how crap Microsoft’s “Open” OOXML is (GPL violations and redundancy among other things).

Now the battle seems to have heated up: IBM threatened to step out ISO (via slashdot) if they don’t roll back the OOXML approval.

Well, they’re big and still a bit powerful. MS is big, but falling apart. Probably other companies would join them, especially those against.

Microsoft is not only failing technically with Vista and their web platform but also financially. They probably spent too much with .NET, Vista and stupid patents. At least the European Patent Office went on strike (I’m really amazed) because they are: “granting as many patents as possible to gain financially”. I wonder is the US patent office ever considered that…

Nevertheless, it’s always good when a big company poses against something bad and restrictive (for the future), although the reasons are seldom for the greater good. Let’s hope for the best.

Proprietary Software

I’m a big advocate of free software, highly active on the Anti-DRM campaign and a big fan of Richard Stallman (as you can see by reading back lots of posts on this very blog). In his last text to the media about Bill Gates’ retirement, he says (as usual) some very strong arguments about fair societies, freedom of use and copy etc. We all know that, right?

Well, there is one thing I don’t particularly agree: proprietary software.

In a recent talk, he said there was a fair reason why there is copyright: Investment in technology. In the old days, it was the press. Today, we have software companies.

The beauty and the beast

Microsoft, as he said (and I reiterate), only abused of development made by other companies since their first product. Worse, since then, they’ve been buying one company after the other and scraping each one of them (pretty much like Yahoo! is doing recently, therefore the interest). But there are lots of others that are doing fine, and it’s not fair to put them all in the same box.

Adobe Photoshop is a great example. Gimp is fantastic, of course, but the investment in Photoshop is huge and there is a clear difference. The cost is high, but the quality is also high. Like Photoshop, many other specialist software in music, video, animation, scientific, electronic, games and so on have a specific market, to which they belong and are doing pretty well. I’m not saying Adobe (or any other specialist company) is fair, just that some are investing seriously in development, not only sucking their users money and freedom.

Windows is unfair, it locks the user, it treats them as liars, cheaters, yes. Worse still, you can’t use it with anything else because it’s forcefully incompatible with the rest of the world, yes! They’re cheating by making you buy their license even if you’re not using, to force you update Internet Explorer even if you use Firefox, to report all your actions to Microsoft and god know what more. YES!!

Apple with horrible DRM locks, pushing iPhone updates and all we already know they do, Warner, Sony and all the like. Yes! They are mean! But that doesn’t mean all companies are.

Research and Development

If you have a free software (open source) that is enough for your uses, or you can hire someone to increment or adapt it to your needs, fine! If you can write software to your needs and redistribute it to the rest of the world, perfect! But why negate the existence of fair research and development, I don’t know.

I’ve been on the academia side of development to know very well what happens here: some PhD writes a piece of software, without any care for quality or extensibility. Later on, someone (or themselves) make it open source and people start using it, extending it. But most of the time it’s not possible to carry on incrementing, its need a re-write. And people re-write software fortnightly on academia.

The investment is in giving PhDs a good time and not to produce good software. Free software is good not because of that investment, but because people that need it, do it. It’d be fantastic if academia could teach them about software quality, if there was a real control over what they produce (like acceptance by the open source community) as part of their grades.

Now, private companies (like many around Cambridge) invest a good bunch of money in research and development, hiring those same guys and giving them a proper training in software engineering and getting things done, very well indeed. That costs money, I can’t see how they could open the source, at least not in the first years of sale.

Extensibility

Some companies give it for free (as in beer) for academic institutes. But the most important (IMHO) is to be extensible and to have a clear interface. Good software, even if closed source, have a clear and easy-to-use interface. With that, you can extend it to suit your needs. It’s not as good as having the source, but it’s a start.

Enforcing DRM locks, spying on users, making impossible to connect to other software, being nasty is the problem, not being proprietary.

End Software Patents

If you, like me but unlike American legislation, think that software patents are just unthinkable, please join forces with End Software Patents. Spread the word, help your friends understand why it’s inconceivable to claim ownership upon ideas and mathematics, not to say both (as software).

Please note that this is not just a campaign or petition, they’re also offering legal help if you’re stuck with a patent claim or if you need better arguments on why software patents are bad to our business.

Thanks Josh for the link!

DRM in external drives?

Western Digital thinks that bundling the external hard drive with a crappy software that won’t allow you to share your own videos, music and photos is security.

A friend of mine have this disk, he uses for everything, including legal music bought over the internet and other mp3 (like my band’s songs) without DRM. It works a charm on his Mac and on my Linux, I didn’t even know that drive had restrictions.

It’s quite easy for the newbie geek to avoid DRM (especially if he/she uses Linux or Mac which is common) but the non-geek consumer will probably give up the whole thing and by a new one. If only the hardware industry would just stop and think for a second…

I wonder if the same security consultant WD used is the one behind biometric passwords… or probably they just did the same security course at Microsoft…

UPDATE: a very good article by BBC.

What is DRM?

Following DeffectiveByDesign’s campaign to show the world what really is DRM when someone search it on google, I’m adding the link below to explain the world what really is DRM. Please, add the link below with DRM as description to any page you have the access to write (and won’t cost you your job):

http://www.defectivebydesign.org/what_is_drm like this: DRM

Read more about it here.

Digital Rights Nightmare

Cory Doctorow (from http://www.boingboing.net/) wrote a very good article about how DRM can be a shoot on it’s own foot and how it pushes even more the intellectual property away from the artist.

http://www.informationweek.com/news/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=191000408

Apple tried so hard to be like Microsoft that they’re now just like them against Netscape last decade, but now it’s not just a free browser, it’s a legion of big hardware companies (bigger than Apple itself) and they are going to retaliate using the same weapons.

Really hope they kill themselves in the process and rid of us of their stupidity.