When open is not open, and reviving a hard disk

I was doing some work on OpenOffice.org when I saw the term Microsoft Office Open XML(OOXML) on a site and was duly shocked at this openness, then it struck me that I had heard someone talk about this format(at a FOSS event in college) and Microsoft’s attempt to get it ratified as an ISO standard. I wondered if they had managed to buy people out, and unsurprisingly they had. I don’t have anything against the corporation, they develop some good looking (don’t get me started on the performance) software and good hardware. What I don’t believe in is the abuse of their position as an established and respected company. If you want your format to become the industry standard so badly, try to make it better than the current benchmark, which still is the Open Document Format. I do not see any advantage of OOXML over ODF, be it file compression, compatibility, uniform implementation etc. The previous document format, .doc was fine, but was not compressed enough.

If Microsoft was so particular on using an Open format, they could have adopted ODF. Why can’t you? Star Office is commercial, and uses ODF, so there’s no stopping Microsoft from using it. The only advantage of OOXML is that it is supported by the office suite with largest user base, Microsoft Office. The argument no longer holds water, since Office 2007 supports ODF from Service Pack 2 onwards. This unethical buying of approval is what makes me dislike MS. I still respect Bill Gates as a messiah of the personal computing revolution, but I am no longer reliant on MS software. I have the freedom of choice courtesy Richard Stallman, Linus Torvalds, Larry Wall, Guido van Roosum and numerous other people who have made the world of open source heaven.

A rather interesting thing happened this week. A friend’s external hard disk had gone berserk and wouldn’t open in XP or Ubuntu. Saravanan(A genius, an RHCE and a linux freak/geek all rolled into one person! ) and myself helped him out, but it didn’t work out. So I got his hard disk home yesterday and set down to work. I booted up my favoured OS, Fedora 11 and it detected the disk but did not display the contents. So I got into a virtual terminal and force mounted it and voila, everything was normal. I copied all data to my hard disk, formatted the external drive and then copied back all the data. It worked fine on Debian, Ubuntu, openSUSE, XP, Vista and Seven. This is another advantage of using open source software such as Fedora. It helps you solve others’ PC troubles and yours too!

I went to a research conference Dhi Yantra 2009(means Intellectual Machine in Sanskrit) which focuses on High Performance Computing and Human Brain Modeling(I’m more interested in the former). Today was the first of the three days. It was an illuminating experience listening to people like Dr. Murali Murugavel from from Worcester Polytechnic Institute and several other WARFT alumni and research trainees. I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s sessions which are to concentrate on supercomputing. Dr. Rupak Biswas, who is Acting Chief, Supercomputing Division, NASA Ames Research Center; Dr. Rajesh Kasturirangan, Associate Professor, National Institute for Advanced Studies (NIAS) Bangalore and Research Scientist, MIT, Boston and a few others will deliver their keynote lectures over the weekend.

The Ashes test seems to be going Australia’s way after a long partnership between Katich and Ponting. I wonder why Harmy is not playing, he could have changed the course of this game. If Aussie selectors were fools in dropping the crazy diamond Symonds, their English counterparts are fools on a higher plane. Here’s hoping England get back into this game, and have a nice weekend ahead!

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4 thoughts on “When open is not open, and reviving a hard disk

  1. Microsoft didn’t pay off anyone. The most radical side of the open source movement are/were pissed that Microsoft got in the game at all and even came up with a solution which is forward-looking and still backwards-compatible with formats (doc, xls, etc) which most documents in government and industry are currently stored. Burton Group, an independent firm, advises OOXML for enterprise users because it will best meet their objectives and needs.
    http://www.zdnetasia.com/news/software/0,39044164,62036581,00.htm

    Also, ODF is broken. I’ve run into several problems using ODF files in different open source applications. To some degree, that’s because open source is developed in a fractured or even ad hoc environment so “full support” for any standard isn’t going to be universal until developers get around to it. That’s one of the ugliest warts of open source (IMO).
    http://news.zdnet.co.uk/software/0,1000000121,39409700,00.htm

    Once you look beyond the histrionics and FUD from the FSF-types you’ll find there’s a lot more to this story than “Microsoft bad, open source guys good.” There are issues with performance and compression, and there’s also an issue of what the market really wants. If OOXML meets market needs better, why shouldn’t it prevail? And why should anyone reflexively ignore what Microsoft offers as open source? They provide funding for Apache and other projects. They work with other companies involved with open source. Novell takes a lot of heat from the FSF lemmings but their customers use both Linux and Windows and, most likely, use MS Office document formats. The Novell version of OpenOffice.org supports OOXML — with Microsoft’s blessings. How is that bad? They’re only meeting their customers’ needs rather than forcing them to choose something they may not or already know they don’t want.

    If open source advocates want to be taken seriously, they really need to grow up and learn than cooperation with others shouldn’t be limited to only those who share their views.

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