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Microsoft Government Politics

The Massachusetts Office Party 731

Posted by Zonk
from the we-all-saw-how-the-first-one-went dept.
Quattro Vezina writes "The Inquirer reports that the state of Massachusetts has performed a modern-day Boston Tea Party, by dumping Microsoft Office in the proverbial ocean. According to the article, 'every state document must be in PDF or using Open Office formats' starting in 2007." Forbes has the story as well. More from the article: "The switch to open formats such as these was needed to ensure that the state could guarantee that citizens could open and read electronic documents in the future, according to Massachusetts - something that was not possible using closed formats. The proposal, which is open for comment until the end of next week before it takes effect, would represent a big boost for open source software such as Open Office, which is created by volunteer programmers and made available free of charge."
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The Massachusetts Office Party

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  • I appreciate this. But its more for their own bottom line than for the tax payers. While both will benefit, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention all the reasons for their choice.

    And anyway, why wasn't I invited to this party?

    • The government's bottow line is the same as the tax payer's bottom line. Either through taxes or deficit, every dollar that is spent by big brother comes out of our pocket. Not quite sure of the point of your post, except to jip by out of FP! :)
      • by Savage-Rabbit (308260) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @12:18PM (#13455238)
        ... that the state of Massachusetts bottom line is not just cost. They are arguing that open file formats = democracy and closed file formats don't which makes sense to me. A citizen should not be forced to invest money in proprietary software because that is the only way he/she can read official documentation. The current situation of publishing official electronic documentation in *.doc, *.xls or some other closed file format is akin to making law books publically available for free or at worst a small nominal fee but printing them in such a way that you must buy special glasses that can only be purchased from company X in order to read them. People take it for granted that laws and other such documents are publically available to anybody at minimal cost when the medium is paper and ink, why should any citizen have to shell out several hundred dollars for a MS Office suite in order to read the exact same material on his computer?
    • I'm a resident too and think this will be great. Big thumbs up.
    • Hold on... Isn't governments bottom line = taxes?
      Yes they probably didn't do it to LOWER taxes, but this will allow savings that can lead to tax dollars being spent on the local economy rather than go to Microsoft. Or atleast be put to better use in some way. Like filling up the gas tanks for state vehicles... :/
      • by Short Circuit (52384) * <mikemol@gmail.com> on Thursday September 01, 2005 @09:58AM (#13453829) Homepage Journal
        Michigan could do with a move like this. We're running a deficit and our economy's not getting any better. The Republican-controlled legislature is pushing tax cut after tax cut, without much in the way of spending cuts. Something like this could save some real dollars.
        • I agree. I work for a Michigan College's online study program, and we require all of our instructors post their documents either in .RTF or .PDF files (unless they're teaching a specialized computer course like Microsoft Word, Office, or Powerpoint), so that people on Macs, Linux or even older Microsoft systems can read the documents. It would be nice to see the government have the same concern for its citizens as we have for our students.
    • Your knee-jerk needs to be reprogrammed. It's still in bitch-about-companies mode.

      The government is not a corporation. The government takes your money by force and spends it. Any time they're spending less money, you should be happy, because it's your money they're saving.
      • by gowen (141411) <gwowen@gmail.com> on Thursday September 01, 2005 @10:16AM (#13453976) Homepage Journal
        Any time they're spending less money, you should be happy, because it's your money they're saving.
        That's right. Because we all know that government's never do anything beneficial to the community: like roads, education for those who couldn't otherwise afford it, public transportation, water supplies, defense, the police...

        A knee jerk libertarian is a still a jerk.
        • by saider (177166) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @10:27AM (#13454061)

          Reg: All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?
        • Have you ever worked in / around the Federal Government? My experience in the USAF was that at the end of every fiscal year, every project went on a ill-advised spending spree to ensure that they spent every penny of their budget (flat screen LCDs, the newest computers, expensive peripherals) all of which was totally unneccessary. Every federal project does this at the end of the fiscal year so that they don't come in under budget, otherwise they'd have their budget cut because the don't need the money.

        • by ilyaaohell (866922) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @12:15PM (#13455211)
          Roads are and should be maintained by the government, along with basic city planning. The reason for this is that roads are created by the community and for the community and are not a profitable enterprise, unless you start charging more tolls to use these roads. When every road starts to have entry fees, then the argument can easily be made that a private company needs to take over.

          Education for those who couldn't otherwise afford it need NOT be provided by the government. All that they should provide is the money so that the education does become affordable. In other words, the system of financial aid that allows students to go to a high quality private college needs to be brought down to lower grade levels. Vouchers are a good start. As for those who don't qualify for financial aid, they already DO pay for their public schools in the forms of taxes. Just because you don't give the money directly to the school district supervisors doesn't mean that this isn't exactly where that money goes. The difference would be that then you WOULD know where it goes, and you'd still be paying the same amount.

          Public transportation need not be provided by the government. Most major cities go into contract with private transportation companies who run city bus routes. Why is the government involved at all? They're doing nothing but skimming off the bottom line of the company as a "fee" for being given the opportunity to run their business. The airline industry isn't run by the Federal government, and has functioned well for decades (and arguably better than under a government beurocracy). Taxis are operated by private companies, why aren't you complaining that they should be taken over by the government? There is a proven track record, both on a local, national, and global scale, of private companies successfully running transportation businesses.

          Water supplies are a utility. Natural gas is usually provided by private companies, as is electricity. Why is water so special that only the big, powerful government is to be trusted?

          Defense and the police are needed to protect the population, and every Libertarian would tell you that this should be the ONLY service that a government should be providing. Therefore, mentioning this point is in no way an argument against Libertarianism.

          I'm not a Libertarian, and I'm not an anarchist, and I don't agree with many of their principles, but common sense dictates that there's no reason why the government closes off entire lucrative markets when private companies, concerned with efficiency and customer satisfaction rather than the status quo, would deal with things more efficiently. Especially when the government is already IN COMPETITION with private industries, as is the case with public transportation, the postal system, education, and a whole host of other industries.

          Governments DO supply communities with many beneficial things, including every item on your list. However, there is absolutely NO reason for why they should be doing this when there already are alternatives.
    • by /ASCII (86998) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @09:50AM (#13453756) Homepage
      I think it is surprising how little people care about open formats. For me it is very important to know that I'll be able to open and edit my own documents twenty years from now, and to convert them to whatever format is all the rage then.
      • by shis-ka-bob (595298) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @10:27AM (#13454062)
        I agree completely. Here is one example. A dissertation is often printed about three times (one for the department, one for the univerisity library and once for the student to keep). If the document is shared, it is shared electronically. What are the odds that you can read an Word 3.0 document compared with the odds that you can read a PDF, LaTeX or even RDF? It blows me away that people will work hard to produce a document that should become part of the corpus of human works, and then save in in a format that will be dead in a few years.

        Open formats are the clear answer.

      • by Shotgun (30919) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @10:43AM (#13454203)
        When I was laid off, I spent nearly a year working as a security guard. ProEngineer was giving away a 3D CAD program, ProDesktop, so I thought I'd use all that late night desk time to draw up my airplane.

        Fast forward a few months, ProEngineer decides the giveaway didn't make them much money, so they kill the program. They were nice though, and gave all the current users a 5-year liscense key to use their current copy.

        Fast forward a year. My laptop crashes, and I have to wipe and re-install. My ProDesktop key is gone. I now have several megs of very detailed and very useless drawings.

        This is the reason that governments should be using open formats. Thank you, Massachusetts. ...and all those Slashdotters claimed there wasn't a God.

        • I know how you feel; I had an original music composition -- one of my first, and still best -- stored in a non-midi, non-standard format. Years later, when I tried to open it, I couldn't, as the software used to create it no longer existed.

          I finally found someone online who still had a copy of the software laying around, and who was kind enough to copy it to a midi file for me, for which I remain eternally grateful.

          That's the day I converted to open formats all the time, personally, and the primary reason I
      • by Boing (111813) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @10:44AM (#13454213)
        I think it is surprising how little people care about open formats.

        How can this be surprising? To 98% of the people in the world, the computer is, and shall remain, a black box. They don't care how it works inside. They don't care about LZW compression, or XML, or TCP/IP, or C++, or the difference between OR and XOR. They don't think of their files as being in a "format" unless poor user interfaces dictate that they must. To them, the file is a photograph they took, or a screenplay they've written, or a song they downloaded, and the internals of its definition are irrelevant.

        And to take a small jab at the open source community, this is where we have problems reaching the desktop market. We design interfaces for ourselves, and we care about the internals. We want to know that PNG supports alpha transparency, or that our Windows XP installation is on /dev/hda1 while our Linux swap partition is on /dev/hdb2. We care whether the songs we listen to use VBR to save a few extra kilobytes on a 300 GB hard drive.

        But when you provide these things as options to a user who doesn't know or care what they mean, you're asking them to commit to a choice when they don't want to. They'll feel helpless, and stupid, and if/when they complain, we too often reply "well it's not our fault you can't use it. RTFM."

        Okay, I kinda veered off topic there... regarding open formats: in the end, there's relatively little difference between an open and a closed format on a twenty-year timeline, from the perspective of the 98% group. Either way, they're not going to be the ones designing the conversion tool. If it's an open format, they have to hope that enough geeky guys with free time find it an interesting or relevant enough problem to solve. If it's a closed format, they have to hope that the company's still in business and updating its tools, or that it released something before it went belly-up, or that it opened its file formats, or that its developers are good samaritans. And here's the kicker: the 98% group does not know which of these alternatives is more likely to be the case. They probably don't realize the problem exists. It's not because they're stupid or willfully ignorant, because once again they only see the computer as a tool. You might as well call them stupid or willfully ignorant for not knowing what machine screws are used to hold their washing machine together.

    • by kilodelta (843627) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @10:25AM (#13454048) Homepage
      We're slowly moving away from MS apps in RI too. For example, most servers are now LAMP vs. being MS IIS, Exchange, etc. There are still a couple of Novell GroupWise servers but those are slowly being phased out.

      For example, my agency has 60 users. For MS Office assuming a government discount that makes the end price $200 we'd be shelling out $12,000.

      And lets not forget the obscene pricing of MS software for servers. A 50 user MS-SQL for instance would run you approximately $8K to $10K and that excludes the OS.

      LAMP - server cost $5K. Cost of software $0, Cost of configuration time: $1K or so. So for the $20,000 above you could buy three new servers and have them congigured to do what you want them to.

      And a desktop can be had for
      So yes, it is a bottom line exercise and a clear signal to Microsoft that:

      a) We won't pay bloated prices for sofware that we only use a small subset of features on, but isn't crippled from occasionally using the gee-whiz features.

      and

      b)Constant upgrade cycles in which we shell out full retail for something that is an upgrade.

      They had better wake up and smell the coffee. As government goes, so goes business that interacts with government. Microsoft could be staring at a huge defection of customers in the near term.
  • I love it, but... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by AltGrendel (175092)
    ...how long will it last? Any bets that Microsoft will be there, trying to get this reversed?
    • Re:I love it, but... (Score:3, Informative)

      by jc42 (318812)
      Any bets that Microsoft will be there, trying to get this reversed?

      Well, of course. They're presumably already hard at work.

      But in the long run, this is a rather good idea for the state. Remember that state agencies send out a lot of things that are legal notices, and there are consequences to ignoring them.

      Consider a scenario:

      1. Citizen C gets notice N from state agency A. It's in a format that doesn't display properly on C's computer, or displays in a garbled form that is easily misunderstood.

      2. C doe
    • I'll take that bet! (Score:4, Interesting)

      by btarval (874919) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @10:32AM (#13454116)
      " ...how long will it last? Any bets that Microsoft will be there, trying to get this reversed?"

      Sure. I'll take that bet, IF I can bet on Microsoft being there to get this reversed. I'd even bet on Microsoft being successful, by giving the State a huge discount on their Office products, along with intense bribes (excuse me, lobbying) to the local politicians.

      You know, the Standard Operating Procedure these days.

      Followed by a huge Press Release saying that the State is dropping OSS in favor of Microsoft. Which in turn will alert even more states that they can get MS software for a huge discount just by issuing a Press Release.

      Now, if the State was REALLY smart, they'd include a clause that any Word documents which couldn't be read via the current Word technology 5-10 years in the future would require Microsoft to pay a fine of, say, $100 per document. To cover the States' cost in converting it so that it could be read again.

    • ...how long will it last? Any bets that Microsoft will be there, trying to get this reversed?

      Microsoft will simply allow people to open OO.org formats but then silently save the documents as their own proprietary XML. In this respect, users won't know that they are screwing themselves over (as they never do), and everyone will still require Microsoft Office.
  • by Altima(BoB) (602987) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @09:14AM (#13453385)
    ...Hopefully they did it all while wearing festive penguin suits, or for the politically correct Bostonians, Spheniscidae American suits.
  • by LiquidCoooled (634315) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @09:15AM (#13453394) Homepage Journal
    PDF [adobe.com]

    and

    Open Office XML [openoffice.org]

    Strangely, both say you need Adobe reader to read them ;)
  • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @09:16AM (#13453401) Journal
    Currently, Microsoft office can't read or write either of these formats[1]. So which is Microsoft going to add? They could relatively easily add PDF output as an export-only option, similar to the OpenOffice implementation, and treat it like printing. This would potentially have the effect of reducing the number of people using .doc as an interchange format, reducing lock in. The other alternative, supporting OpenOffice formats seems much less likely - if MS Office could read and write these formats it would be a lot easier for people to migrate away from it.

    [1] Yes, I know it can with third party products, some of which are Free.

    • by Coryoth (254751) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @09:37AM (#13453626) Homepage Journal
      Currently, Microsoft office can't read or write either of these formats[1]. So which is Microsoft going to add?

      Both? PDF is making steady inroads as an interchange format and from what I understand of Avalon it should make generating PDF on Vista pretty much as easy as on OS X. It would make sense to support it.

      As for OpenOffice.org - they're using the OASIS format and Microsoft is a sponsor [oasis-open.org] of that so you'd think they'd get around to it eventually. I think Microsoft is realising that locking up Office document formats isn't going to work for much longer (see their various efforts to create more "open" XML based formats for MS Office) and are trying to work out what to do instead.

      Jedidiah.
      • I think Microsoft is realising that locking up Office document formats isn't going to work for much longer (see their various efforts to create more "open" XML based formats for MS Office) and are trying to work out what to do instead.

        I think much more likely is that eventuallythey might support .odt (etc.) as an import / export format but still default to their own format. They could easily pull a few tricks to make sure that .odt is inferior to their own while they were at it, such as not shipping it in

        • Those sorts of tricks have worked fine for Microsoft in the past because the de-facto standard was Microsoft's Office formats. However, now the target has shifted. If you want to communicate with Massachusetts government employees then you will have to assume that they are using OO.org. If documents created in MS Office don't look at least as good when exported to the Oasis formats as they would if they were created in OO.org then people that have to deal with the Massachusetts government are likely to s

    • Neither (Score:5, Insightful)

      by doublem (118724) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @09:57AM (#13453814) Homepage Journal
      MS will offer the state some discounts on Microsoft Office. If they're desperate they'll push RTF as a document format instead.

      As we've seen far too many times in the past, government bodies tend to use moves like this as a way to force a better deal out of the existing vendor.

      This isn't about using Open Source to build a better solution. It's about leveraging Open Source to get a better deal on the existing solution
  • by sfontain (842406) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @09:16AM (#13453404)
    I hardly see how Open Office and PDF formats "guarantee" citizens will be able to view electronic documents in the future any more so than MS Office formats. For all anybody knows, in 5 years, all of these formats could be dead as new formats emerge. And guess, what--When that happens, there will be conversion tools for the next mainstream formats, too.
    • by ozmanjusri (601766) <aussie_bob@NOspaM.hotmail.com> on Thursday September 01, 2005 @09:21AM (#13453460) Journal
      I hardly see how Open Office and PDF formats "guarantee" citizens will be able to view electronic documents in the future any more so than MS Office formats.

      Open Office formats are zipped XML. All you need to get at the data in them is an unzip program and a text reader. It's a good way to "guarantee" that anyone can view them in the future.
    • by Ihlosi (895663) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @09:22AM (#13453469)
      If the format is properly documented and the documentation is available, it is only a matter of getting someone to write an appropriate viewer or conversion tool.

      If the formats documentation is not available, you are pretty much at mercy of whoever invented it, and their willingness and ability to provide viewers and conversion tools.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      An open format cannot die, as anybody can read the open standard and produce an implementation.

      Also, using something like open office lowers the barrier to entry for those wishing to read the documents. If a user can use cheap hardware with free software then a larger proportion of the population can access the data.
    • I hardly see how Open Office and PDF formats "guarantee" citizens will be able to view electronic documents in the future any more so than MS Office formats.

      Open Office is open and non-proprietary, and PDF is an open, published spec with many non-proprietary implementations. MS Office isn't open, and any implementations have been largely reverse-engineered.

      ...but, I suspect you're right. This is a nice step to take, but it won't make much difference in the real world - MS Office is a de facto standar

    • by jeffvoigt (866600) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @10:06AM (#13453882)
      This is more of a push by the state of Massachusetts to force Microsoft and other similar vendors to provide an export option that contains no proprietary data in it.

      While it's true that standards change over time, the fact that there would be an open standard means that a document could be successfully reconstituted (all standards include version information). Requiring an open document storage option means that even 5 years after a standard has gone the way of the dodo, a developer such as myself could still recreate the document if needed.

      This is not true of .doc files and other proprietary storage formats. Basically, MA is making a law that states that they do not ever want to be committed to any one vendor, and that all they really care about is the document and the actual information it contains.
  • by ChrisF79 (829953) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @09:17AM (#13453423) Homepage
    I understand that Microsoft wants to keep the files that Office creates in a closed format. But, in order to prevent this sort of thing from happening, why not offer an open format as an option in the "Save As" dialog box? That way, users such as the Massachusetts government could be satisfied and still use Office, and everyone else could continue using the closed format. Maybe I'm wrong here, but I really think 99% of the users would still just click the save button as usual, because I doubt the average Office user is aware or even cares that they are not saving in an open format.
    • You point out the problem yourself: Normal users don't think about the format they save in.

      The "Massachusetts government" is not one entity, but a lot of pretty normal users. Why should these be capable of thinking to save "right", when millions of exactly as normal users can't?
      MS could add an option to set the preferred format, so that admins could take care of the problem beforehand, but that's the point where simply switching software becomes effective anyway, from an administration (not necessarily a
    • by ShieldW0lf (601553) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @09:38AM (#13453635) Journal
      If Office opened and saved OO.o documents, there would be a flood of people migrating away from it.

      Think about it, if you knew you could download OO.o for free and anyone with Office could open/edit/save the files you'd made in it, would you spend hundreds of dollars for Office? Hell, what could possibly motivate you to buy it at that point?

      I would say that if MS opens the door to OO.o formats, they may as well just shoot themselves in the head and be done with it, because they're toast.
  • Groklaw coverage (Score:5, Informative)

    by stevey (64018) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @09:17AM (#13453425) Homepage

    This was also covered on groklaw [groklaw.net], yesterday.

  • by bgfay (5362) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @09:18AM (#13453428) Homepage
    For years I used WordPerfect and liked it a whole lot. However, I didn't like the price of it, the upgrades (I know, I didn't HAVE to upgrade), and the fact that the Linux version sucked while the Mac version was discontinued. So I switched to OpenOffice.

    Only when 2.0 comes out will I have easy access to all those WP documents.

    I use OpenOffice for a lot of reasons, one of which is that I think I have a good chance of being able to open my documents for a long time.

    That said, I think that this is all a PR thing to get MS to lower their price. I don't believe that a government bureaucracy will make this step for real. Next thing you'll tell me that they've decided to run Linux.

    There needs to be a new name for this sort of thing where groups say "I'm switching!" in order to get the real price from MS. Let's call it the Boy Who Cried Linux or BWCL for short.
  • AéîLsJ? (Score:5, Funny)

    by loggia (309962) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @09:23AM (#13453484)
    PK ä'/á¥19 mimetypeapplication/vnd.sun.xml.writerPK ä'/Ogä$ $ layout-cache p P 0 P ^ P S PK ä'/
          content.xmlí [wÚ8ú}...-½oep f/íl"!Í¥"(TM)Ü&$íÓ aÐ`Kl0~?Ù F HÛi^ÒXúîwÉnýø èrvP2z
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    = #+...4\×ý}Q;ã"ÄSY Ê KáÓÝ "%abIpOEYÙ%zè-"z ða*×ÇØ~)Ä"E,...E,? eûK tj--(TM)¼x2Y
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    AéîLsJ?
    • Funny, but.... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Noksagt (69097) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @09:36AM (#13453614) Homepage
      This is amusing.

      However, less-astute readers should remember that the OO.o formats are well-documented & any other program can easily write an implementation to spec.

      They are also XML files, which can be understandable in plaintext. This means many people don't even have to bother looking at the spec to extract useful information.

      So why the gobblygook? Look at that "PK" at the beginning of the string. That indicates that it is zipped. Rename the .sxw extension to .zip & throw it into whatever unzipper you wish to.
    • by Demerara (256642) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @09:37AM (#13453620) Homepage
      from the comment:

      Ê KáÓÝ "%abIpOEYÙ%zè-"z ða*×ÇØ~)Ä"E,...E,? eûK tj--(TM)¼x2YK©~z ÃbÉ3R ý^£è "ÅÃdíYMC9CMY ÑsO¼

      Good point, well made.

      But consider %oidjowKE%OokssoSeok @o~oOKEN#(SIojNS.
    • Ah, good to see that the lameness filter is doing its job!
    • Re:AéîLsJ? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by cyberfunk2 (656339)
      Perhaps I'm just retarded.. but for me.. I copy-pasted it into a text file and then unzipped it only to get an error "missing end signature--probably not a zip file".

      What're you all doing to "unzip" this?
  • Several Benefits (Score:3, Interesting)

    by blastard (816262) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @09:37AM (#13453625)
    I applaud the move as I file documents in the commonwealth from time to time. A benefit of Open Office files is that they are generally smaller files that MS files. And, more importantly, being able to file .pdfs helps eliminate one of the great threats inherent in .doc files. That is the hidden parts of the document. The stuff that was once part of the document, but was removed in editing. I have opened many a .doc file in a simple text or hex editor and found some very interesting revisions or other information. One file mysteriously had a persons application for benefits in it. This included SS#. It is hard to be certain that you've eliminated these dregs when using Word. Hopefully this will lead to a more secure America. Another benefit of the .pdf is What You Sent Is What They Get. WYSIWTG. You can never be sure that all your pretty formatting will survive when your .doc file is opened on the other side.
  • by stlhawkeye (868951) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @09:47AM (#13453725) Homepage Journal
    The proposal, which is open for comment until the end of next week before it takes effect, would represent a big boost for open source software such as Open Office, which is created by volunteer programmers and made available free of charge.

    This is nice for our bottom line, since all of the money our government pisses away is OUR money. However, I'd be willing to pay EVEN MORE than Microsoft charges to have open formats. And although I am supportive of both commercial and open source software initiatives, and have contributed to the open source community as a programmer, I honestly don't give a crap what our government thinks about it. This is a move in the right direction. I suspect it's motivated by money, however, and not a benevolent government desiring to increase the freedom of information.

  • Long In The Making (Score:3, Informative)

    by Feneric (765069) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @10:27AM (#13454064) Homepage

    This event has been long in the making. Massachusetts established an "Open Source Public Trough [zopezen.org]" over a year ago, and many of its more prominent regional web sites had been using and/or advocating open source since before then (see this recommendation [saugus.net] or Guide to Free Software [saugus.net] for just a couple of examples from my home town) and of course Massachusetts was the only state not to cave in regarding the court case against Microsoft.

    For locals, this isn't surprising. What's more surprising is that it took so long.

  • by yagu (721525) * <yayagu@NospAm.gmail.com> on Thursday September 01, 2005 @10:28AM (#13454072) Journal

    In the posts here I see a lot of back-and-forth with some holding fast to the notion staying with MS Office is the prudent thing to do for various reasons including:

    • MS Office can produce PDF docs
    • MS Office docs can be viewed and printed using the free Microsoft Viewer software
    • Probably the simplest solution is to Save As... RTF.

    (bullets borrowed from Donny Smith(567043))

    From personal experience I think the most important factor is getting out of MS' talons and whimsical changes to their own formats. I've posted about this before.

    I've actually been in business meetings which couldn't not get started on time because attendees had to sort out getting copies of the agenda or memos which they'd actually received beforehand but were in formats incompatible with their version of MS Office! This, ostensibly at one company using tools to help conduct business. Were this a one-time anecdote would be one thing, but I encountered this scenario many times. (There are grooves in my eye-sockets from so many eyerolls waiting for business to proceed.)

    OpenOffice may not offer the perfect solution, but any move away from unpredictable and untouchable formats brings hope to eventually working with technology that improves our productivity. (I shudder to mention the car analogy, but it's so fun: can you imagine a car industry with such an approach (or maybe it's the highway infrastructure)? Every year or so you find out some cars can't be driven on the highways because of some change it their design, blah, blah, blah.)

  • by xmorg (718633) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @11:25AM (#13454662) Homepage
    As a BSD user, I had to wipe my aunts computer due to virus's. After hours of scanning the computer wouldnt boot up.

    Now each of her Works Documents have to be opened in the free "Word Viewer" copied and pasted into OpenOffice because she does not have the original software.

    In response to PDF's being "closed", they may be owned by adobe, but at LEAST there is more than one way to view them, and they can be viewed and printed from any computer on a number of different applications. Also Adobe does offer Acrobat reader in some form or another for most systems.

    Put it this way: a pdf or a wps of unknown version made in works?
  • PDF open? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jxyama (821091) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @12:53PM (#13455581)
    Is PDF "open"? Except for the fact Adobe distributes PDF Reader for free, how is it different from .doc format?
    • Re:PDF open? (Score:3, Informative)

      by bXTr (123510)

      Same way that Java is "open". The specs have been published so that anyone and their family pet can create and/or render PDF. e.g. GhostScript.

    • The PDF Spec... (Score:3, Informative)

      by Phil John (576633)

      ...is open, it was postscript that was license encumbered (IIRC). There exists a multitude of programs that can read and write PDF's.

      OpenOffice.org can export to PDF. Evince, gpdf etc. can read them. There are also third-party libraries that output PDF documents (some written in pure PHP, such as FPDF [fpdf.org], which wouldn't be as probable without specs.

  • by morganew (194299) * on Thursday September 01, 2005 @07:13PM (#13459420)
    Biggest problem no one seems to be addressing is that the OpenOffice format is not guaranteed to be the most innovative, nor is it truly the lowest common denominator (like .rtf).

    Wax cylinders were a 'format' for music, but we don't want the government locking out the use of CDs or DVDs just because the people with wax cylinder readers can't use them.

    Backwards compatibility is important, but you certainly want to preserve the option to take technology that may innovate, even in the document format space, and provide better services to your constituents.

    Here's a good example: early iterations of WordPerfect certainly didn't allow the complex tables and embedded images we have in current formats - heck, early HTML was barely functional for presenting text and pictures. What if we were only allowed to presever content in original WP formats, or HTML 1.0?

    Governments should pick winners and losers by the quality of the technology, not ideology.

    Build backwards compatibility into your contracts agreements with your vendors, and use the format that gives you the best technology.

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