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Australia Government Microsoft IT

Australian Government Denies Microsoft Bias In OOXML Choice 193

Posted by timothy
from the have-you-never-heard-of-coincidence dept.
An anonymous reader writes "It looks like the Australian Government is not taking criticism of its decision to mandate Microsoft's Office Open XML standard lying down. 'The policy is vendor-neutral which allows its principles and standards to be used across any platform,' they said this week. Yup ... except for the fact that almost no other office suite apart from Microsoft Office supports writing to the standard. And as for Firefox? Turns out 96 percent of Australian Government desktops use Internet Explorer. Looks like bureaucracy is winning here."
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Australian Government Denies Microsoft Bias In OOXML Choice

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  • No bias at all. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Opportunist (166417) on Friday January 21, 2011 @12:22AM (#34948618)

    The others could support the standard. Or they could eat cake.

    What kind of standard is a standard if nobody but a single vendor supports it? Moreover, what kind of "openness" is it if the single vendor is also the issuer of the standard?

    No bias, my gluteus maximus...

    • by rsilvergun (571051) on Friday January 21, 2011 @01:27AM (#34948980)
      At least, that's why I've heard. The issue is that the documents Microsoft Office makes don't confirm to the OOXML standard. Programs that perfectly implement the OOXML standard can't ready documents created by MS-Word.
    • by cbope (130292)

      What kind of standard is a standard if nobody but a single vendor supports it?

      Around here, it's called a Microsoft standard...

      • What kind of standard is a standard if nobody but a single vendor supports it?

        Around here, it's called a Microsoft standard...

        Sony have a quite a few of those, too. MiniDisc, DAT, ATRAC, Memory Stick, and UMD? So at least 5, off the top of my head.

    • by CODiNE (27417)

      Yes, but WHATEVER YOU DO. Do NOT apply that to Google and WebM.

      • Yes, but WHATEVER YOU DO. Do NOT apply that to Google and WebM.

        More than a single vendor supports WebM [webmproject.org], so I don't see what the problem is. Oh wait -- you own an Apple device, don't you?

        • by CODiNE (27417)

          Lots of support for it, but they had no say in it's design. It will be a de facto standard based on the size of Youtube. It remains to be seen how future WebM versions will be developed.

  • In other news... (Score:4, Informative)

    by Compaqt (1758360) on Friday January 21, 2011 @12:25AM (#34948632) Homepage

    US Government denies Halliburton bias in mandating no-bid KBR contracts [wikipedia.org].

    • black is white (Score:4, Insightful)

      by bzipitidoo (647217) <bzipitidoo@yahoo.com> on Friday January 21, 2011 @02:44AM (#34949298) Journal

      OOXML is vendor neutral. Nixon is not a crook. Gorbachev has been removed from his position due to illness. Clinton did not have sexual relations with that woman. Diebold voting machines were validated. AIG is a financially sound company. No oil is leaking from BP's well. Kim Jong Il's birth was heralded by the appearance of a double rainbow over the mountain and a new star in the heavens.

      Awfully common. I've seen the Big Lie used so often that we've gotten wise to it. I wonder how such whoppers can still work at all. Mostly it just makes the teller look brutishly stupid. The more obvious it is, the stupider they look. So, Australian Govt, are you too stupid to feel embarrassed about this? Are your flunkies and subjects all supposed to pretend to be too stupid to notice, so that you don't punish them?

      • by Whalou (721698)
        Sadly "Kim Jong Il's birth was heralded by the appearance of a double rainbow over the mountain and a new star in the heavens. is the affirmation the most likely to be true, if only by luck/coincidence.
      • Perhaps we give them too much credit to be stupid. What if they are just sub-clinically psychopathic and don't know it yet?
  • Regarding IE (Score:5, Interesting)

    by atomicbutterfly (1979388) on Friday January 21, 2011 @12:35AM (#34948694)

    I work for a major Australian Government department. The summary comment about how "96 percent of Australian Government desktops use Internet Explorer" should not be a surprise to anyone - it's the mandated platform for nearly all corporations these days, at least here and in the US. If Firefox had some OFFICIAL support for things like Group Policies and MSI package deployment (and I'm not referring to those hacks and repackaged releases you can find at certain places on the net), then maybe there would be an increase in the level of corporate uptake of the browser. As an engineer and not a lowly secretary for example, I'm able to have both Firefox and IE on the same machine. Shit I can have nearly anything on my computer, so long as it's legal of course (thank goodness for open-source). There was a lot of tweaking to get Firefox to accept NTLM authentication which is normally passed through into IE automatically (hence a lot of poking about with the network.automatic-ntlm-auth.* settings in about:config), but it works quite well in the end except for some peculiar pages.

    My point is that whoever wrote the summary has probably never worked in the IT department of a company which has to suppose thousands of desktops. There's a reason Active Directory and by extension Group Policy is so useful, and hence why IE is a standard on said desktops, and it ain't about bureaucracy. As for Microsoft's Open Office XML... well, we apparently use a TON of .doc files where a nice PDF would have been more appropriate, so a cultural shift to more open standards was never going to happen quickly anyway.

    • Re:Regarding IE (Score:4, Interesting)

      by domatic (1128127) on Friday January 21, 2011 @12:44AM (#34948744)

      I've been managing Firefox through Active Directory for a couple of years now with FirefoxADM.

      http://sourceforge.net/projects/firefoxadm/ [sourceforge.net]

      It doesn't require a strange build of firefox. I manage proxy settings for the domain with the ADM templates and update Firefox on the clients with standard mozilla.com builds of Firefox. I don't know if it is OFFICIAL enough for you but it has proven effective here in letting Firefox work just as transparently as IE with AD and our proxies.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Looks nice, but it would never pass muster with those who set IT policy unfortunately. From the looks of it, it doesn't seem to be an officially authorized, Mozilla-endorsed set of templates for which Mozilla themselves can be held responsible if something fucks up (no need to mention the fallacy of believing this means anything in practice of course, but the lawmakers like to know they can shift the blame to someone). I imagine the software probably works quite well, however the 3rd-party nature of it is s

    • by Techman83 (949264)
      Indeed there is aFirefox MSI [frontmotion.com]. We deploy that + ietab plus to get around any apps that don't like Firefox (fewer these days, only thing we use it for now is Exchange Web mail 2007, being that the full featured version only works in IE). We deploy to 100's of desktops without any issues.
      • Like I said to another poster though, whatever these 3rd-party mechanisms are to integrated with Windows Domains better, they're not from Mozilla. Frankly I don't even think IT even cares about such matters. They have a corporate firewall, carefully designed group policies, and so on. IE 7+ has tabs, and with the upcoming switch to Windows 7 will also have a sandbox for IE, which none of the other browsers even have. You'd have to find a reason for those guys to get off their arses and support Firefox to th

        • by Techman83 (949264)
          I found enough good reasons to make our Win7 image to have a prominent Firefox icon, with IE buried in the menus. People can use either, but most go with the path of least resistance, in this case it will be Firefox. It's actually really easy to manage the things most IT departments need to manage. I should know, that's what I do day in, day out.
        • by deniable (76198)
          It's often not the desktop IT that blocks it but the back-end 'Intranet Application' types. FF has reach the point where we can treat it like our other applications (with help) but it can't render some of the horrible, old and expensive back-ends. IT does care in a lot of places. We don't want to be stuck with IE either.
        • You'd have to find a reason for those guys to get off their arses and support Firefox to the level that IE is

          As someone who is "one of those guys" I take issue with this. The reason we use IE still is due to legacy programs requiring IE6. Now I hate IE6 more than anyone else in my building. As someone who has spent years developing websites, I know the terror of IE6. But I've had it explained to me that we can support 1 browser with our resources (fortunately the webteam aren't required to follow this policy for the external websites). It can be either IE or Firefox. Due to the fact we must support IE6 only progra

    • by deniable (76198)
      We support Firefox here for anyone who asks for it, using an unofficial version that supports GPOs for install and configuration. We had a fight to deploy IE7 and 8 because our finance and HR are outsourced to another government department with a lot of Oracle junk that required IE6. Strangely enough Firefox 2 did a better job with it than IE7 until last year's updates. Bottom line, IE6 sticks around because of the back-ends rather than GPO convenience.
      • by gblues (90260)

        Holy shit, that goes back to 2004. 7 years. In the time it's taken to get anywhere on it, two major versions of Windows have been released. It's like the Duke Nukem Forever of FireFox bugs.

    • by Malc (1751)

      Huh? When was NTLM last a problem in a Mozilla browser?

      Come on, that's a bit weak.

    • by eulernet (1132389)

      The summary comment about how "96 percent of Australian Government desktops use Internet Explorer" should not be a surprise to anyone - it's the mandated platform for nearly all corporations these days, at least here and in the US.

      Yes, but which version of IE is really used ?
      IE6, IE7 or IE8 ?

    • by Jaktar (975138)

      You pretty much nailed it. The company I work for is exactly the same (in the US).

    • I think I spoke too soon. I can see your point there.
  • Every Australian I've ever encountered on the internet recognizes that their government is a perverse congress of clowns and anencephalic monsters. Why bother with stories discussing what they think? While I don't support censoring their speech (a charity they refuse to repay in kind), I do think that their manic ramblings deserve the same global attention as a loud fart in a third-grade classroom in Pawtucket
    • by bmo (77928)

      I do think that their manic ramblings deserve the same global attention as a loud fart in a third-grade classroom in Central Falls.

      Fixed.

    • I had been given a different impression of their government. It sounded like they did some things correct. For example, in the US, when, say, a bridge is built and it's determined a toll is needed to pay for the bridge for ten years, that toll remains forever. In AU, once they pay for the bridge, the tolls go away. It sounded like their government was more honest and didn't attempt to hang on to revenue generation that was unfounded. I believe Microsoft technologies can be hardened and secure at the desktop
    • by dbIII (701233)
      All governments are like that to a degree. The only difference is that Australians can get away with saying it.
      This will probably annoy some Americans who will mutter about free speech, but it's not really about that. Instead it's about not giving automatic reverence simply because of a job title. One example of the difference is shown in this Chaser video where the leader of Australia was approached by a man with a fake axe and then a running chain saw: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MeSJ6OR9tx8 [youtube.com]
      If some
  • by splerdu (187709) on Friday January 21, 2011 @12:51AM (#34948784)

    Didn't have an MSI installer or GPO support for years on end,
    has bad support for multiple instances (if you are running more than one session on the same machine, firefox won't even launch)
    can't administer settings remotely, or lock down settings pages based on user rights.

    Firefox is great browser, but it's very difficult to deploy and administer to a large corporate environment.
    The recently added MSI installer is a step in the right direction, but there's still some ways for Firefox to go before it can really break into corporate.

    • by Nemyst (1383049)

      Like ActiveX support? What you say is true, but unfortunately even IE7, IE8 or the upcoming IE9, which will all have the specifications you're listing, aren't getting as much adoption as they should, mostly because business applications still rely on antiquated technologies that only run in IE6.

      The biggest hurdle to a move forward are those internal web applications.

    • by Malc (1751)

      has bad support for multiple instances (if you are running more than one session on the same machine, firefox won't even launch)

      Wrong. I regularly have it running concurrently under two logon sessions on Windows 7 Enterprise x64. I took my local admin privs away from my domain account, so I often login concurrently with a local admin account when I'm doing something that will need me to type my password a lot and an admin cmd prompt isn't sufficient. Thus I frequently have two instances of FF.

      • by splerdu (187709)

        I meant when you're logged on as the same user into more than one session, FF won't start and quits with the "Firefox is already running but isn't responding" warning. It's not uncommon to have an administrator account logged on to the same machine using two different remote desktop sessions.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The department/agency responsible has re-opened comment on the COE due to the level of interest the announcement caused. Have your say.

  • People raised concerns when Australia was voting whether to accept OOXML as a standard. We were ignored, Australia went ahead and voted Yes.

    Do you think they are going to care about any protests now that they have mandated using it? No way.

    What do we do next? Protesting votes by voting out the politicians doesn't change who runs the govt departments - they just report to different ministers, and keep doing what they are doing. Until we get someone who actually (a) Understands, and (b) Cares, we are going

  • You know... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rsilvergun (571051) on Friday January 21, 2011 @01:34AM (#34949014)
    I'm tired of Bureaucracy being blamed for good 'ole fashion political corruption. Did it ever occur to any one that the Bureaucrats just do what they're told, and it's the elected officials ramming this through? It's like when New Orleans was destroyed in floods. Everybody blamed the guy that ran FEMA, and nobody pointed out the he was just an organizer for the flood response, and he had not authority to order the Nation Guard in to shore up the levies. Also, nobody asked why the National Guard wasn't shoring up the levies early on (hint: they were all deployed in Iraq, still are too).

    Mark my words, this anti-Bureaucrat nonsense is the start of a class war to pit private employees against public so the rich can drop all our wages without us noticing. You'll be too busy wondering why the public sector employees have it so good to ask why you've got it so bad...
  • by ugen (93902)

    The only way it would not be considered biased here on /. is if it selected Linux and Open Office ;) Sheesh.

    (Let's see how soon collective /. consciousness mods this down to "troll" so as not to see an opinion different from the general consensus)

    • Re:Sure its biased (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Samantha Wright (1324923) on Friday January 21, 2011 @01:49AM (#34949074) Homepage Journal
      Mate, it's not biased because of one platform versus another, it's biased because OOXML isn't a widely-supported (or well-supported) standard, and they're picking it on the false premise that it is. Office 2010 supports ODF natively, and 2007 and 2003 support it with a plugin—those are the same suites that support OOXML (2003 needs a plugin). The fact that they chose to go with the Microsoft-only format tips the hand.
      • by scdeimos (632778)

        Ok, how do you explain this then [microsoft.com]?

        On Office 2007:

        The 2007 Office system supports the ECMA-376 Office Open XML Formats standard, which was later submitted to ISO/IEC and was published in late 2008 as the ISO/IEC 29500 Office Open XML Formats standard.

        And on Office 2010:

        Office 2010 provides read support for ECMA-376, read/write support for ISO/IEC 29500 Transitional, and read support for ISO/IEC 29500 Strict.

        My gut feeling is that this is just idiocy in government and someone without a clue wrote this particular requirement. If Microsoft was behind this then surely they wouldn't have asked for ECMA-376 because their current version of Office can't even write it.

      • Mate, it's not biased because of one platform versus another, it's biased because OOXML isn't a widely-supported (or well-supported) standard, and they're picking it on the false premise that it is.

        You can say it isn't widely supported, but it is widely used - way more than ODF. And considering that 99% of the files are already in that format and do not require conversion (which would inevitably lead to formatting differences) then you can't say that there are no benefits to choosing that format and that this therefore must be the result of bias.

        In my business, I would love to move to a free office suite, but most of our files get sent to other people outside this company and so we have to use the for

        • by walshy007 (906710)

          but most of our files get sent to other people outside this company and so we have to use the format that makes it easy to deal with the real world.

          So you use pdf then?

  • by Chas (5144) on Friday January 21, 2011 @01:58AM (#34949106) Homepage Journal

    Uhm. News flash, even MS Office doesn't fully support said "standard"!

    AND IT'S THEIR FUCKING "STANDARD"!

  • by BestNicksRTaken (582194) on Friday January 21, 2011 @04:33AM (#34949736)

    So exactly which politician is taking the M$ bribes then? Come on, name and shame time.

    Sticking with MSIE is just dependence on an archaic IT infrastructure, and no respect for security, but forcing the use of OOXML just makes no sense other than for vendor lock-in.

  • On the second page will be listed the names of the folks involved with developing the standard. Ninety-five percent of the names also list a company / corporation they work for, most of whom will be the biggest dogs in whatever industry for which the standard is being written. If you dominate an industry, you too can impose your will from behind an ISO fig leaf.
  • This is hilarious.

    They standardise on things which can read and write OOXML, forcing things to be MS Word, then they say "but you can use any document format you want, so long as what produced it can read and write OOXML." This means people will upgrade to the newest Office, and use the slightly different default non-OOXML format, and those docs will float around, and the path of least resistance will be to upgrade everyone, again. They're specifically embracing the MS trap.

    This is a bad decision, but it

  • A: You can see their mouths moving.

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