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Archive for January, 2007

Some more on OpenXML

Migual de Icaza wrote a lengthy article on the Open Document Format vs. OpenXML discussion. One of his points is that the size of the OpenXML specification is not a problem, because ODF lacks essential parts in the specification of the spreadsheet document format, which makes it impossible to implement a spreadsheet solely based on the ODF specification (the specification on formulas is missing). OpenXML will probably by sufficient to implement an office application ‘from scratch’. I think this is a reasonable observation, and therefor I think the OpenXML specification isn’t that bad after all. Another point he makes is that first everybody was complaining about the fact that MS did not disclose the specification of its file formats, and now the company does, people are complaining it is ‘too much’. De Icaza: “If anything, if I was trying to interoperate with Microsoft products, I would request more, not less.”. I think he has more knowledge about these issues than I have, because he was one of the developers on the Gnumeric spreadsheet, which was one of the first non-Microsoft applications fully compatible with Microsoft Excel’s document format.
Another issue he mentions is that ODF is not perfect, and that a standardization of OpenXML is not a real problem for the success of open source software. He points out that open standards in general are a Good Thing and that has that point as clear advantage over Microsoft Office (which uses closed standards until the release of Office 2007). This made it a little bit easier to get governmental organizations using instead of MS Office. Now that this advantage is not there anymore, open source software should compete on technical grounds instead of political grounds.

Watch out for OpenXML

Jono Bacon, community manager of Ubuntu, calls everybody to protest against the standardisation of Microsoft’s OpenXML format as an ECMA standard and European ISO/IEC standard. While I’m not very involved in the discussion of the various word processing document formats, I think it is better that everybody uses one common standard. Because OpenDocument was the first of this kind of formats to become an international standard, I think it is reasonable that everybody uses this standard. I think it is not a good idea to let Microsoft again decide about the standards for the document formats used in word processors (and other office software), because the prove in the past that they do not like to let others use their format and seems to be incapable to define a decent standard.
According to Jono Bacon, the OpenXML standard is 6000 pages, but Microsoft is trying to make it a standard using a ‘fast track’ procedure.

Paper about Google with interesting quote

Today, I read a paper (PDF) written by the founders of Google about the first versions of their search engines. Probably, this is already noted by a large number of other webloggers, but I came across the following quote about ‘other commercial search engines’:

Currently, the predominant business model for commercial search engines is advertising. The goals of
the advertising business model do not always correspond to providing quality search to users. For
example, in our prototype search engine one of the top results for cellular phone is “The Effect of
Cellular Phone Use Upon Driver Attention”, a study which explains in great detail the distractions and
risk associated with conversing on a cell phone while driving. This search result came up first because
of its high importance as judged by the PageRank algorithm, an approximation of citation importance on
the web [Page, 98]. It is clear that a search engine which was taking money for showing cellular phone
ads would have difficulty justifying the page that our system returned to its paying advertisers. For this
type of reason and historical experience with other media [Bagdikian 83], we expect that advertising
funded search engines will be inherently biased towards the advertisers and away from the needs of the

Considering the fact that Google generates most of its revenues by putting advertisements in its search results, it makes one wonder whether Google did not made the same mistakes as its predecessors. In the current version of Google, a search on Cellular phone does return only information about where one can buy the cheapest cell phones, but no results about a study on the dangers of using cell phones while driving a car. I think it is at least interesting, and maybe even an example of the risk of ‘allowing’ advertisements everywhere (of course, Google may decide for itself if it put advertisements in its search results). I also wonder how Page and Brin (the authors of the paper, but also the fouders of Google and now both billionairs) currently think about this topic. I guess they have a different vision on it now, then they had nine years ago…

Interessante visie op auteursrecht

Column over auteurrsrecht door saxofonist Hans Dulfer op Xs4all. Uiteraard heeft hij volgens mij helemaal gelijk. Ik ga never nooit betalen voor drm-muziek; zelfs als platenmaatschappijen niet anders meer zouden uitbrengen (maar dat doen ze toch niet, want dan verkopen ze niets meer).

Apple introduces iPhone

Yesterday, Apple finally introduced the iPhone. This new telephone integrates an iPod, internet tablet and telephone in one. Apple claims that this new telephone is ahead of the competition, and I think they are very right. Taking the video’s on the web site as a reference, it seems the usability of the iPhone is very good. Almost every cell phone I have used has major flaws in usability, and it is not a second to early that a company is going to improve this.
Obviously, a very large touchscreen makes it easier to create a nice user interface, but other phone companies could have done this as well. I think this is also the first telefphone which can function normally as a music player. My current telefphone, a Nokia 6230, has also the capability to play music, but the user interface is impossible to use. The same holds for my Palm Tungsten E2 (but this can be solved by installing other music player software). I predict that the iPhone is going to be a huge success.
Other strong features of the phone are the possibility to install other applications (widgets), browse the internet in a normal way (using 802.11a/b/g technology) and obviously integration with the Apple Mac. The touchscreen is also nice, because it doesn’t require the use of a seperate pen to use it; you can just use your finger to control it. The motion sensor is a nice feature, but not essential I think.

There are already people saying that this product isn’t innovative (but at the same time says Windows Vista is innovative, to I doubt I should take these people serious anyway). I do not agree with these statements. This telephone is definitely innovative because of the previous mentioned points. Current smartphones are just a collection of hardware and a bunch of software, creating the feel of a collection of stuff grabbed together instead of a integrated device. This latter is caused by the fact that telefphone companies think they should introduce a new model every three months (or something) which is in no way enough time to engineer a decent product. Even Motorola with the RAZR phone included iTunes support, but the user interface was very crappy. This caused that the phone was not a success and resulted in a missed oportunity by Motorola. I think Apple is going to make a lot of money on the iPhone, and they deserve it, because it is the first company spending time on designing a good user interface for a mobile phone. I think that I may buy an iPhone when it is available in the Netherlands and the price is not unreasonable high.

Nokia introduced earlier this week the N800, a successor to the Nokia 770 Internet Tablet. With the N800 it is not possible to make telephone calls (because it has no GSM modele). The device is designed to use as a portable internet device and music player. The nice part on the N800 is that it runs Linux and uses GTK+ as the toolkit for its user interface. This is the same toolkit used by Gnome, and a lot of developers working on Gnome are also working on this Nokia device. Unfortunately, I think the Apple iPhone is more useable than the Nokia, because it has also the possibility to be used as telephone and doesn’t require a Wifi-network for using the internet part of the device.

Sinds wanneer is dit nieuws

Zojuist op de radio bij het journaal: Geenstijl verklaard Felix Meurders dood. Lekker boeiend ook, weblogs zoals Geenstijl zijn leuk entertainment, maar moeten vooral niet serieus genomen worden.. Het probleem is dat de ‘journalisten’ die daar schrijven dat wel zo graag willen. Daardoor is Geenstijl een kansloos geheel en denk ik niet dat het nog lang zal voortbestaan.
Sowieso is het doodverklaren van iemand helemaal niet grappig of zo. Blijkbaar kunnen ze niet zo goed tegen kritiek, terwijl ze zelf niets anders doen.

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