Ben Langhinrichs

August, 2007
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Genii Weblog


Civility in critiquing the ideas of others is no vice. Rudeness in defending your own ideas is no virtue.


Fri 31 Aug 2007, 12:11 PM
Microsoft is starting really irritate me.  I have no problem with their advocacy of OOXML, except when they get to the point of stacking committees and trying to buy votes, and I have no idea whether they are right that IBM engages in similar tactics, even if they haven't been caught (or been that successful at it, either).  But I really, really hate talking points ala Karl Rove and the "Swift Boat" travesty.

On various posts yesterday, I saw eerily similar snide comments being made about whether IBM would ever release the "Notes proprietary formats", with one poster on Brian Jone's blog saying, as an example:
When this whole to-do is over, IBM may just drop the OSSers like a bad date and proceed to take a bunch of government contracts with a Lotus suite that supports ODF in name only.  And when you ask Rob Weir to open source his stuff or reveal Lotus-specific format information, he'll probably repeat the line about how it contains "old legacy code which is covered by licenses and patents outside of IBM's ontrol." 
Besides the idiocy of acting as if Rob Weir would have any control over this, the subtle message being promoted is that IBM always hides its data formats and just wants to force Microsoft, as a competitor, to expose theirs.

What a pile of crap!

For those who don't know, and the Microsoft people really should, the IBM Lotus Notes data formats are all documented in a free, and generally available, download as part of the Notes C API toolkit.  Rich text, view formats, everything.  Data structures, how they go together, functions to access them as well as how to access them directly if you don't want to use the functions.  Sample code out the wazoo.  And all of it has been available for years, since 1994 at least, since that is when I used all of these documented formats to create my fisrt product.  Since then, all my products have depended on this open access top data formats.

So, is it possible that the Microsoft posters don't know this?  Certainly.  Is it likely?  Maybe the people repeating it don't, but this is the ultimate dirty tricks tactic, as it relies on people's ignorance of the facts, and leaves a sense that is hard to counter it.  So, while I can't do much to stop this, I will at least call it what it is, FUD, pure and simple.

Copyright © 2007 Genii Software Ltd.

Wed 29 Aug 2007, 09:00 AM
It is hard not to wonder as we count down the last couple of days before the vote on ECMA's (and Microsoft's) quest to get OOXML officially made an ISO standard.  How did Microsoft, well known for its innovation over the years, and a strong supporter of developers and consumers alike, manage to come out with a document format that was so unfriendly to developers and consumers alike, and so innovation-free?  My theory, which is probably as good as any, is that Microsoft, with ECMA as its partner, is channeling Tom Lehrer.  Here are some examples:

Picture the joys of developers (such as myself) trying to implement a 6000+ standard filled to the brim with intricate and little explained dependancies, and you might just hear a soft refrain (to tango music):
I ache for the touch of your lips, dear,
But much more for the touch of your whips, dear.
You can raise welts
Like nobody else,
As we dance to the masochism tango.
 

Now, imagine delving further into those specifications, and coming upon the attributes of one of the many undocumented, deprecated, compatibility elements:
There's antimony, arsenic, aluminum, selenium,
And hydrogen and oxygen and nitrogen and rhenium,
And nickel, neodymium, neptunium, germanium,
And iron, americium, ruthenium, uranium,
Europium, zirconium, lutetium, vanadium,
And lanthanum and osmium and astatine and radium,
And gold and protactinium and indium and gallium,
<gasp>
And iodine and thorium and thulium and thallium.


But what is Microsoft thinking?  What does Microsoft think its customers are thinking?  Here is one possibility of what Microsoft might hope its customers are thinking:
First you get down on your knees,
Fiddle with your rosaries,
Bow your head with great respect,
And genuflect, genuflect, genuflect!


Of course, Microsoft customers may not feel quite like that.  Their actual reaction may sound a bit more like:
So say you love me here and now,
I'll make the most of that.
Say you love and trust me,
For I know you'll disgust me
When you're old and getting fat.


Let's go out to the Microsoft blogs, where we can hear a resounding tune as stories trickle in of dirty deeds done to push through a generally unpopular OOXML standard:
Stories of tortures
Used by debauchers,
Lurid, licentious, and vile,
Make me smile.


Boiling down the ECMA/Microsoft position on why OOXML should be made a standard, despite its many flaws, is this sophistic argument:
As the judge remarked the day that he
Acquitted my Aunt Hortense,
To be smut
It must be ut-
Terly without redeeming social importance.


And finally, for those loyal supporters who are reaching out a hand of encouragement to Microsoft in its ignoble quest, here is the tune you may soon hear if Microsoft and ECMA are successful:
I hold your hand in mine, dear,
I press it to my lips.
I take a healthy bite
From your dainty fingertips.

My joy would be complete, dear,
If you were only here,
But still I keep your hand
As a precious souvenir.

Copyright © 2007 Genii Software Ltd.

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Tue 28 Aug 2007, 03:06 PM
It was four thirty in the morning, so we were quite surprised to hear a knock-knock at our door.  In came our almost twelve year old, and he looked worried.  He told us that he had been woken by our older son's phone vibrating, and that our older son had answered, then crept down the stairs and left the house.  Come to think of it, I am not sure whether he was worried that his brother was OK or that his brother would kill him when he find out he'd been ratted on.

But fortunately, his older brother had an excuse (this time at least).  Last night was the "first central total eclipse since 2000", according to NASA, and my son and his girlfriend were getting up early to see the spectacle, then go to her house for a waffle breakfast.  He had actually gotten permission from my wife the night before, unbeknownst to either me or my son.

Still, it is good to know my son wouldn't get past his light sleeping brother if he decided to make a habit of it.  Every family needs a good spy.

Copyright © 2007 Genii Software Ltd.

Thu 23 Aug 2007, 11:05 AM
Notes showing its muscles

In E-mail's future, pumped look, InfoWorld seems pumped themselves by the capabilities and promise of Lotus Notes/Domino 8 and Sametime.  Plus, they include the great graphic above, which made blogging this story all worth it.

Copyright © 2007 Genii Software Ltd.

Wed 22 Aug 2007, 09:23 PM
A blog called InsideMicrosoft (which I am sure is completely unbiased), quotes my post Another update on ODF vs. OOXML file counts, or at least the Slashdot spin on my post.  The InsideMicrosoft post, ODF Outnumbers Open XML 162,700 To 1993 On The Internet, confirms my prediction that "a dedicated Microsoftie could spin this in a positive way", and in fact predicts that OOXML document growth will continue to "triple every three months", so, as they show:
August: 1993
November: 6000
February 2008: 18,000
May 2008: 54,000
August 2008: 162,000
November 2008: 486,000
February 2009: 1.5 million
May 2009: 4.5 million
August 2009: 13.5 million
November 2009: 40 million
February 2010: 120 million
May 2010: 360 million
August 2010: over 1 billion
But since InsideMicrosoft confidently expects this growth to continue, why stop there?  Extrapolating from their steady predicted growth rate, they implicitly predict:
November 2010: over 3 billion
February 2011: over 9 billion
Since there are only a few more than 4 billion HTML documents on the web after 18 years, and since that count grew only a small percentage in the past three months (2.8% to be more precise), it is quite clear that InsideMicrosoft is predicting that OOXML documents will overtake HTML documents sometime in the next three and a half years.

Wow!  And you heard it here first.

Copyright © 2007 Genii Software Ltd.

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Wed 22 Aug 2007, 03:41 PM
Today's fun is looking at nested tables.  Some of you know that I think IBM has a weird resistance to nested table support, so I was hardly surprised when it turned out that the productivity editors don't support nested tables.  What I have a harder time understanding is that they DO support nested tables, sort of.  If you create a nested table in MS Word (in the .doc format) and then read it in the Lotus Documents editor, it renders the nested table quite well.  But if you try to create a nested table, the Create Table action is greyed out.  If you try to copy a table and paste it into a table cell, it fails miserably (and oddly).  But you can edit the existing nested table and save and re-edit and it works fine.

The mystery is solved partly due to a tip from Da Li Yin of the IBM Productivity Editors team (but in the managed beta forum, so I can't repeat it exactly), and partly by looking at the ODF code (one of the great parts of having an XML storage is it is easy to look at).  To get the nested table, you create a frame, using the intuitive Create - Frame action, and then put your cursor in that and create a table.  If you line everything up right (actually, I couldn't manage this manually, but fiddling with the XML worked), the nested table shows like a nested table should.

So, given that the editor CAN support nested tables, and given that it CAN interpret a nested table from an MS Word document 2003 document, it would stand to reason that the integration between Notes and the editor should be at least as good, right?

If you said "Yes!", you either haven't been paying attention or you are an incurable Lotus fanboy.  Let's take a simple example (I use only screenshots since the web rendering might change something.)

1) Simple nested table example in Notes 8

Nice and neat and easy to create



2) Simple nested table example from Notes 8 copied and pasted into Lotus Documents

Well, at least the text is saved, but the nested table isn't and the regular table extends way past the right margin even though it is supposed to fit to the margin.



3) Same nested table example from Notes 8 exported by OpenSesame and opened

It isn't exact, but it is pretty close.  The margins work, the nested table works.  The table aligns to the top differently, but I think people could live with this.  But what about the other direction?



4) Nested table example copied from Lotus Documents back to Notes 8 manually

Well, actually, it fails miserably.  There is an error or two that say the following, but nothing gets copied.



5) Nested table example copied from Lotus Documents back to Notes 6.5 manually (out of curiosity)

This was just an experiment, and it actually does better than copying to Notes 8, but it is still a pretty odd result.  The table looks good, but the cell contents are scattered other places.  Overall, not much use.



6) Finally Nested table example exported from Lotus Documents back to Notes 8 using OpenSesame

This actually worked better than I expected.  It added a couple of returns before and after the table, but not much was lost in translation.  It certainly beats the manual copy and paste results.

Copyright © 2007 Genii Software Ltd.

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