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628 days, 18 hours, 37 minutes

I haven’t posted on since 29th January 2010, that’s 1 year, 8 months, 20 days, 18 hours, 37 minutes ago.

Much of what I posted in the past was a record of conversations I had in the course of my work. I posted to provide a record of the conversation and to support my arguments with evidence, as well as to hear feedback and a different point of view.

I have kept the server running for this period to make sure the record remains available to those who might wish to see it, for whatever purpose. I haven’t changed the infrastructure during this period (apart from updates of course – everyone should apply those).

I’ve always believed blogs are best when written in an authentic voice, and when they contribute to a debate, rather than just broadcasting into the ether.

Recently I’ve been in several meetings where I’ve felt motivated to blog again, but the length of the hiatus has strangely, given me further pause.

Yesterday I decided that I should restart. Technology doesn’t stand still, and, being an engineer and technologist by profession and at heart, I will need to update things around here – and inevitably that means a move to the cloud. I’ll explain more about what that means in a subsequent post, as the service I will use isn’t even in alpha yet.

As I move to a new infrastructure the site may be unavailable for periods of time. I will keep the existing content, including comments and feedback, and it will be available on the new site.

So, this is a rather verbose way of saying hello again.


An update on document formats in Denmark

The Danish parliament adopted a new decision on open document formats today. The decision was unanimously adopted by all parties in the Danish Parliament.

Here’s a rough translation of the “Conclusion paper on the use of open standards for software in the public sector.

V, S, DF, SF, K, RV, EL ([smc] i.e. all parties in the Danish parliament) has concluded the following regarding the use of open standards in the public sector:

1. In pursuance of decision B103 (collection of 2005/06), the Government shall ensure that the public sectors use of information technology, including the use of software, is based on open standards. The requirement for the use of open standards applies for new purchases and for larger updates and must be expense neutral after the current criteria’s for the public sector.

New requirements for open mandatory standards for document formats

To promote the use of software based on open standards in the public sector and particularly to promote the competition on office software, as well as to ensure that citizens and businesses are not dependent on specific office packages in their communication with the public sector, the following will be done:

2. There will be created a list of approved mandatory open standards in public sector with the objective to promote that public authorities must communicate by using open standards. The Committee of Experts on open standards, established in the autumn of 2008, will after the involvement of the joint-public OIO-Committee recommend to the Minister of Science, when - and with which standards - the list is updated.

The following principles must be fulfilled before a standard can be on the list. The standard shall be:

  • Fully documented and publicly available.
  • Free implementable without economic, political or legal limitations on the implementation and use.
  • Approved by an internationally recognized standards organization, for example ISO, and standardized and maintained in an open forum through an open process.
  • It shall me demonstrated that the standard can be implemented by everybody direct in its entirety on multiple platforms.
  • Be interoperable within the functionality ceiling with other standards on the list.

Non-editable documents

3. All public authorities will, with effect from 2010 be obligated to submit documents to citizens and businesses that is readable, but not editable, in PDF/A-1. The same applies when authorities publish documents meant to be read and not edited on the authorities’ websites.

Editable documents

4. Governmental Authorities[1] will from the 1st of April 2011 be obligated to send and receive documents in the formats included on the list mentioned under point 2 - including ODF. To ensure that everyone, regardless of platform, have access to the editable documents, governmental authorities shall, if they publish editable documents on their websites, do this in ODF and other document formats which are included on the list.

5. The Government takes up negotiations with the municipalities and regions, as soon as possible to implement the governmental open standards after the follow or explain principle.

Other formats

6. In addition, all public authorities shall continue - to ensure citizens the maximum of freedom of choice – receive documents in all common formats with a widely distribution within the scope of application [2]

7. The parties take note that we will continue to follow the development of document standard formats on the basis of the annual It- and phone political statement.

8. Until the list is in force, there must not be technical barriers through new purchases and larger updates of office software in the state, which narrow the introduction of open standards. Future office software must as base element have the established open standards from the list referred to in paragraph 2.

9. The parties agree that the state in its forward-looking procurement policy for software shall promote the competition by, among other things to consider the concern that the Danish Competition Authority raises in its report[3]

[1] Authorities here means departments and agencies etc.

[2] By ”common formats with a widely distribution within the scope of application” means formats, which the authorities often meet in the area.

[3] Point 5.2 in the report: ”Legal bindings connects office software”, 11th of June 2009, Devoteam for the Danish Competition Authority

Update: CIO has an IDG report of this here Danish Parliament Sets Rules for Open Document Formats:-

Fri, January 29, 2010 — IDG News Service — The Danish Parliament has decided on a set of rules to which open document formats must adhere if they are to be used by state authorities after April 1, 2011, Denmark's Liberal Party said on Friday.

The agreement isn't about restricting users to one office suite, or choosing between the ODF (OpenDocument Format) or OOXML (Office Open XML) standards. Rather, the Danish Parliament has agreed on the criteria that open document formats must meet, the Liberal Party said.

Approved formats must be recognized by an internationally known standards body such as the International Organization for Standardization, and they must be fully documented. It must be possible to implement the format on different computing platforms.

A panel of experts will now start working on list of which formats actually meet the criteria, and can approved for use by state authorities, according to the statement.

The Danes are pushing hard for the use of open standards, and the agreement will help solidify it as one of the world leaders in the field, the Liberal Party said.

Microsoft contributes Linux Drivers to Linux Community

Presspass has a roundtable question and answer session with Sam Ramji and Tom Hanrahan discussing Microsoft’s release of Linux device driver code under General Public License v2.

REDMOND, Wash., July 20, 2009 — Today, in a break from the ordinary, Microsoft released 20,000 lines of device driver code to the Linux community. The code, which includes three Linux device drivers, has been submitted to the Linux kernel community for inclusion in the Linux tree. The drivers will be available to the Linux community and customers alike, and will enhance the performance of the Linux operating system when virtualized on Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V or Windows Server 2008 R2 Hyper-V.

The Identity Metaystem takes a big step forward, let’s hope Europe takes note.

Mike Jones has just posted the news that the Identity Metasystem Interoperability Version 1.0 specification has been approved as an OASIS standard, with 56 votes in favor and none against. Mike notes that:

Numerous clarifications were incorporated as a result, while still maintaining compatibility with the Identity Selector Interoperability Profile V1.5 (ISIP 1.5) specification.

Information Cards address a real need today and in the future. Kim Cameron, Reinhard Posch and Kai Rannenberg lay this out in their paper “Proposal for a Common Identity Framework: A User-Centric Identity Metasystem” which originally appeared in “The Future of Identity in the Information Society”:

Future of Identity in the Information Society

The challenge in Europe is for projects such as Stork to design architectures that will be able to exploit the Identity Metasystem. This is hugely important because it’s a precursor to being able to take advantage of privacy enhancing technologies such as minimal disclosure certificates.

Gray Knowlton – More than 100 Million OpenXML Compatibility Pack downloads

Gray returns from paternity leave for a rest, and starts off with an update on the uptake of the OpenXML Compatibility Pack – which has now passed 100 million downloads.

Here’s a taster of the data Gray presents

Gray's table of data

OpenXPS - OpenXML Paper Specification

At the 97th General Assembly held in Budapest, June 16, 2009, Ecma International approved Open XML Paper Specification (OpenXPS) as an Ecma standard (ECMA-388).

This Standard defines OpenXPS, the Open XML Paper Specification. OpenXPS describes a set of conventions for the use of XML and other widely available technologies to describe the content and appearance of paginated documents. It is written for developers who are building systems that process OpenXPS content.

A primary goal is to ensure the interoperability of independently created software and hardware systems that produce or consume OpenXPS content. This Standard defines the requirements that systems processing OpenXPS Documents must satisfy in order to achieve interoperability.

This Standard describes a paginated-document format called the OpenXPS Document. The format requirements are an extension of the packaging requirements described in the Open Packaging Conventions (OPC) Standard. That Standard describes packaging and physical format conventions for the use of XML, Unicode, ZIP, and other technologies and specifications, to organize the content and resources that make up any document. They are an integral part of the OpenXPS Standard, and are included by reference.

Many XML-based building blocks within OpenXPS make use of the conventions described in the Markup Compatibility and Extensibility Standard that is relied upon by the OPC Standard to facilitate future enhancement and extension of OpenXPS markup. As such, that Markup Compatibility and Extensibility Standard is included by reference.

It’s about time the world had a XML based non-revisable document standard. A White Paper is also available here in PDF format and here in XPS format

Google Docs announces OpenXML support

Anil Sabharwal, Google Apps’ Product Manager has posted on the Google Docs Blog about Google Docs’ support for OpenXML.

Anil says that when he shows Google Docs to his friends there is one recurring question – “how do I get my Word and Excel 2007 documents into the cloud?”

Anil could have told his friends about Office Live of course! But it’s great to see Google add support for OpenXML to their offerings in response to customer demand.

Google Docs docx_image

Strange bedfellows making common cause

Earlier today, Microsoft and the Linux Foundation sent a joint letter to the American Law Institute regarding a draft of their “Principles of the Law of Software Contracts”.

Horacio Gutierrez goes into more details in “Different Business Models, Common Concerns”, over on the Microsoft On The Issues blog,

The ALI Principles are meant to provide guidance to judges and others as they interpret software licensing agreements.  While the Principles reflect a lot of hard work and thought by the ALI, Microsoft and the Linux Foundation believe that certain provisions do not reflect existing law and could disrupt the well-functioning software market for businesses and consumers, as well as create uncertainty for software developers. 

We have asked the ALI to allow more time for comment from interested parties reflecting the wide range of software developers and users. 

Jim Zemlin writes in “Strange Bedfellows: The Linux Foundation and Microsoft”,

The principles outlined by the ALI interfere with the natural operation of open source licenses and commercial licenses as well by creating implied warranties that could result in a tremendous amount of unnecessary litigation, which would undermine the sharing of technology.

<update> ZDNet’s Mary-Jo Foley reports that

Raymond Nimmer, a professor at the University of Houston Law Center and co-director of the Houston Intellectual Property and Information Law Institute, wrote a strong critique of the ALI draft principles, where he also objected to the proposed implied warranty


Horacio goes on to comment that

The mere fact that the Linux Foundation and Microsoft are joining forces may be viewed by some as remarkable, given that our differences receive far more public attention than when our interests converge.  But there is a wide range of issues that affect all software developers alike. 

Our industry is diverse and sometimes contentious, but if nothing else unites us it is that we all believe in the power of software.  I hope that this represents just one of many opportunities to collaborate with the Linux Foundation and others going forward.  We have a lot more we can do together.

and Jim notes that

Today we are finding common ground with Microsoft and we look forward to potential collaboration in the future as well as to competing in the market and keeping each other honest.

I hope that this common stand does begin to cover more issues, and especially in Europe – there’s plenty of need.

For example, last week many will have seen the headline “EC wants software makers held liable for code” which reported European Commissioners Viviane Reding and Meglena Kuneva’s joint proposal that EU consumer protections for physical products be extended to software. The European Software Association’s response (pdf) “strongly urge(d) Commissioners Reding and Kuneva to reconsider their proposal” pointing out that “the nature of the software is completely different than that of a tangible good”. Alan Cox has spoken out before too on the implications of this to the broader software industry.

As Jim says, we need to keep each other honest, but we need to more often make common cause when engaging with policy makers too, especially in Europe.

The $5 Trillion lock in

Someone’s just mentioned to me that IBM is claiming there are $5 Trillion worth of applications on the mainframe:

Many enterprises, such as yours, may have millions of dollars worth of mainframe assets and core business applications that support the heart of the business. In fact, its estimated that some $5 trillion worth of applications — i.e. business assets — reside on today’s IBM mainframe systems.

That’s not the only  place IBM mention $5 Trillion. IBM’s CFO, Mark Loughridge mentioned the same figure to the New York Times in April, citing it as the total figure for all the world’s announced economic stimulus packages.

The market that is delivering the strongest growth is the public sector, I.B.M. said, with signings up 50 percent worldwide, as the $5 trillion in announced economic stimulus programs across the globe begin to create rising demand for technology and other goods, Mr. Loughridge said.

So, according to IBM, it seems the value of their Mainframe Lock In = The sum of Economic stimulus packages

Sun runs the Jerry Yang maneuver

The New York Times reports that IBM has withdrawn it’s offer for Sun Microsystems

“after Sun’s board balked at a reduced offer, according to three people close to the talks.”

This can only be bad for Sun. As the NYT notes:-

“Sun’s management has come under repeated criticism for committing ever more deeply to a strategy that revolved around open-source software. Thus far, Sun has struggled to use the freely available software as a means of garnering related technology services contracts or hardware sales. The underlying strategy will probably face even more scrutiny now that customers and investors know that Sun had sought an exit through a deal with I.B.M.”

IBM of all companies knows that open source is a marketing strategy not a business strategy.

As Sun & friends are quick to say “EU are you listening?”

Inauguration streamed in Silverlight and captured in PhotoSynth

Chris Pendleton notes a CNN/Microsoft collaboration to capture the moment Obama takes the oath ’s inauguration

In partnership with Microsoft, CNN has published “The Moment” a Photosynth experience that allows users to upload photos during the inauguration of President Barack Obama which will then automagically be stitched into the potentially largest and “most detailed experience of a single moment ever.” Don’t know about Photosynth, check out the web site. “The Moment” will use a combination of crowd sourcing and professional photographers to freeze those amazing 20 seconds when President Elect Obama will take the Oath of Office and become President Obama.

obama silverlight 

But that’s not all – the Presidential Inaugural Committee announced on Friday that it has chosen Microsoft’s Silverlight to stream the event live

Don’t miss it when Barack Obama takes the Oath of Office next Tuesday, January 20th. As part of our commitment to making this the most open inauguration in history, we’ll be streaming the swearing-in ceremony on our site using Microsoft’s Silverlight.

ODF 1.1 Implementer Notes for Office 2007 SP2

have just been published on the Document Interop Initiative (DII) site:-

DII Welcome to the Microsoft Office 2007 SP2 Open Document Format (ODF) implementer notes site.  Here you will find detailed information about Office’s support for each section of the OASIS ODF 1.1 specification.  These notes will help promote interoperability by providing details that others can use as reference points for their own applications.  For example, they include information about which attributes and elements are supported, as well as details about how Office functionality maps to specific constructs in the ODF specification.  For a higher-level overview of Microsoft’s general approach to ODF implementation, see Guiding Principles for Office’s ODF Implementation.  If you have specific questions about Office’s ODF implementation, or if you need further information about the notes themselves, please post questions to the MSDN interoperability forum.

Implementer Notes address the fact that a standard alone doesn’t deliver interoperability. Bake-offs and other interoperability testing between products that implement standards have always, and probably will always be necessary, but documentation like this, that explains choices and assumptions made as engineers build products, and the rationale behind them, can also make a contribution.

I hope other vendors follow suit, and produce Implementer Notes for their implementations – customers can only benefit!

Update: Doug Mahugh has also posted in much more detail, including examples of how to use the Implementer Notes.

Inaugural Jim Gray eScience prize awarded to Manchester University’s Carole Goble.

The inaugural Jim Gray eScience prize was yesterday awarded to Professor Carole Goble of Manchester University’s School of Computer Science. The award was presented by Tony Hey at Microsoft’s 2008 eScience Workshop in Indianapolis.


Joseph Tartakoff quotes Tony citing Taverna as an example of Carole’s work. Taverna allows users to construct complex analysis workflows from components located on both remote and local machines, and run these workflows on their own data, and then visualise the results.

The workflows are reusable, and a current focus of the team’s work has been on how the workflows as well as the data should be curated.

Take a look at, created by a joint team from the universities of Southampton and Manchester, led by David De Roure and Carole Goble. This project is funded by JISC under the Virtual Research Environments programme and by Microsoft's Technical Computing Initiative.


myExperiment is part of the myGrid consortium, which develops the Taverna Workflow Workbench for creating and executing scientific workflows, and also builds on CombeChem - two of the original UK e-Science Pilot Projects. The related WHIP (Triana enactment) activity in Cardiff is supported by the OMII-UK Commissioned Software Programme.

Other links …

TechFlash - UK prof receives Jim Gray award

Brier Dudley's Blog - UK prof wins inaugural Jim Gray eScience Award from Microsoft

20081210 - Updated with picture from Microsoft eScience Blog/Dan Fay

OpenOffice.Org’s “Renaissance” project

Interesting to see OpenOffice.Org’s “Renaissance Project” kick off this week. As they explain (my highlighting):-

Current Situation

As you all know users complain about its cumbersome and outdated graphical user interface GUI). A great deal of functionality is hidden in many overstuffed toolbars, poorly structured menus and complex dialogs Functions are thus difficult to access for novice users or too inefficient to use for expert users In addition, the GUI offers an antiquated look & feel which is hardly capable to communicate innovation and to create joy of use.

Since recently, our major rival started to seek for experience-based differentiation by focusing on usage efficiency and a visually appealing interface. With an inefficient and visually unattractive graphical user interface, it will be hard to motivate users of competitive offerings to switch to In addition, we will face difficulties entering and growing in market segments with users who value a fresh look & feel and an easy to access and use functionality.

I hope that OpenOffice.Org does tries to do something innovative and new, it will also be interesting to see the approach they take.

ISO/IEC 29500:2008, Information technology - Office Open XML formats published

ISO’s press release says

ISO (International Organization for Standardization) and IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission) have just published the joint International Standard, ISO/IEC 29500:2008, Information technology – Office Open XML formats.

ISO/IEC 29500:2008 runs to 7,228 pages and comprises the following four parts:

  1. ISO/IEC 29500-1:2008, Information technology – Document description and processing languages – Office Open XML File Formats – Part 1: Fundamentals and Markup Language Reference (5 570 pages)
    This defines a set of XML vocabularies for representing word-processing documents, spreadsheets and presentations, based on the Microsoft Office 2008 applications. It specifies requirements for Office Open XML consumers and producers that comply to the strict conformance category. 
  2. ISO/IEC 29500-2:2008, Information technology – Document description and processing languages – Office Open XML File Formats – Part 2: Open Packaging Conventions (138 pages)
    This defines a general-purpose file/component packaging facility, which is built on top of the widely used ZIP file structure.
  3. ISO/IEC 29500-3:2008, Information technology – Document description and processing languages – Office Open XML File Formats – Part 3: Markup Compatibility and Extensibility (46 pages)
    This defines a general-purpose mechanism to extend an XML vocabulary.
  4. ISO/IEC 29500-4:2008, Information technology – Document description and processing languages – Office Open XML File Formats – Part 4: Transitional Migration Features (1 475 pages)
    This defines a set of XML elements and attributes, over and above those defined by ISO/IEC 29500-1, that provide support for legacy Microsoft Office applications; that is, those prior to the 2008 release. It specifies requirements for Office Open XML consumers and producers that comply to the transitional conformance category.
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