Fighting Lock-in – A Report From the Trenches

Municipal offices that turn to FLOSS for IT often encounter documents from external sources using that other OS and its office suite.

“in effect, administrations that do not use open standards are working against those that do”

This is one of the main tools of Wintel, perpetually prompting users of IT anywhere on the planet to upgrade to Wintel’s latest combination of hardware and software for no real benefit except enriching Wintel.

The solution, of course, is not to pay “forever” for upgrades but just quit the foolishness and do whatever it takes to be rid of M$’s influence on IT. If local governments all switched to FLOSS the “problem” would be gone overnight with very little effort except converting the existing stack of documents which is not getting any shorter by staying with Wintel.

It would be perfectly reasonable for governments everywhere to fix a deadline for the last document in a proprietary/non-open standard document to be accepted by employees and outside agencies. Just say no!

see Interoperability problems frustrate authorities' move to open source | Joinup.

About Robert Pogson

I am a retired teacher in Canada. I taught in the subject areas where I have worked for almost forty years: maths, physics, chemistry and computers. I love hunting, fishing, picking berries and mushrooms, too.
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29 Responses to Fighting Lock-in – A Report From the Trenches

  1. oiaohm says:

    Phenom you are close. If a file format has compatibility or will be trouble. The devil is in the details.

    Like a RTF document can have word and excel document binary format embedded as a OLE. So that so call generic RTF now needs word and excel to be viewed.

    No Microsoft created format for Office usage passes a details check.

    People avoid the details so are not aware how many compatibility problems they really have.

  2. Phenom says:

    RTF is eBil! It is developed by the Devilest of Devils, M$!

  3. iLia says:

    Now I use RTF files only. They work everywhere, even Linux!

    Don’t be so happy, I have some problems with RTF in LibreOffice on Linux, the problem is that this file wasn’t something very complex, but LibreOffice couldn’t open it correctly.

  4. oiaohm says:

    Clarence Moon MS Works contained version of Word contians OLE parts not in any other.

    Word used in MS Office enterprise can also include OLE links that someone using MS Office Standard cannot open. Heck MS Office Starter contained less OLE parts than MS Office Standard.

    Clarence Moon its the embed OLE data that is the problem. It does not matter what link I use to document its presence.

    I could point to MS documentation on RTF the section covering embedding of OLE object but that has to be downloaded to be viewed.

    Just because a file ends in .doc or .docx does not mean the version of Word you have on your computer is able to open it. You have MS Office Standard and someone made it with MS Office Enterprise using one of the Enterprise extras you may not be able to open the file even that the file is from the same version of Word.

    OLE problems only get worse when you start crossing versions of MS Office. Clarence Moon.

    All this is written up at national achieves documentation on selection of long term storage formats.

    “That’s what you get for using non-Microsoft software”

    The reality how would you know. You just inserted a Image and the wrong OLE was used. It will still display perfect on your machine Clarence Moon. This is why .doc and .docx is such a bastard for sending documents around.

    This is the reality of the problem. Microsoft file format design is a land mine. Just because you have walked across the mine field safely for now does not mean you always will Clarence Moon.

    Yes the OLE objects ruin your day with all of the MS Office documents.

    Most users of MS Office don’t want to become aware that its broken.

  5. Clarence Moon says:

    that 1 document you really want is missing some odd ball OLE object

    That’s what you get for using non-Microsoft software, Mr. O. You found some obscure program where some wannabe developer hacked into the MS Word formats using some unsupported interface and then you couldn’t recover some data with a subsequent version. I hope you understand how stupid that makes you look. I doubt if you do, though.

  6. oiaohm says:

    Tar
    “I tried to open an old Star office 5 file from 2002-2003 and guess what? Formatting is all wrong.”
    I have staroffice documents in my archive back to 1995 in fact Tar I have no problem handling them.

    Clarence Moon
    third party extension to OLE MS Office allows OLE objects to be embedded without a reference image or any exact size details.

    The way MS Office interacts with “non-Microsoft products” causes problems. .doc files from MS Works version of Word also fail in MS Office 2010 due to MS Works version of word having unique OLE addons.

    So broad cross section of documents from every version of MS Word things start coming apart quite quickly just sticking to MS product. Gets worse once you have third party extensions in OLE.

    Basically a .doc file allows storage of a mix of data some made by Microsoft only for particular versions of Office or Works due to differences in OLE objects included. Ie someone insert a visio object into a .doc file it don’t display right unless you have visio installed. Some data only for third part OLE objects. Nice if you are the poor sod on the other end of the email who get that. This is why a lot of businesses these days only send pdf. So you don’t send a document and not have it not open on the other end.

    Sorry Tar RTF is not magic cure all.
    http://www.aspose.com/community/forums/permalink/302986/302986/showthread.aspx

    Welcome to land mine. MS has land mined all there word processing formats the same exact way. Lets allow OLE objects to be embed without having a picture if computer does not have that OLE object. Tar.

    Never allow generic storage of what ever in a file-format and expect to be able to render it in future.

    So a RTF file from 2002-2003 might not even open at all Tar due to the fact your computer does not contain the OLE object that lot of the data was contained in.

    Tar Staroffice document from 2002-2003 you will get open might have to change a few formatting options to make it look right.

    Basically I have old RTF documents with OLE objects in them one case I was forced to reinstall windows 3.11 so I could view some of them. The OLE object would not install and work in 9x or anything NT based.

    RTF with embed OLE are also not assured to work on Linux. OLE embed in ODF there s a image of what should be at that page location if the OLE cannot be found. Not true for old MS Office formats or new OOXML format or RTF.

    ODF is design to work if items like OLE objects are missing by using a reference image instead. It has something to swap it with.

    Tar basically what level of broken do you want. ODF style where formating could be bust but fixable yet your data readable. Or MS style where formatting might be OK but your data is nowhere to be seen because you don’t have anything to display it.

    Tar you could have got lucky and picked a old StarOffice 5 document from 2002-2003 that renders perfectly not all of those documents render incorrectly. In fact most render correctly.

    Tar really if you want perfect formatting in future you should produce a pdf/A that works but basically not editable. ODF means the information will be there to edit no matter what. Yes the PDF/A the /A is archive and it a stable long term format.

    Clarence Moon when I learnt about the OLE issue is with a drawing program called warbirds. That program was never provided on the Internet the company that made it is no more. Sorry the OLE bug is what drives anyone running document archives nuts.

    Its like 10000 documents open no problem but that 1 document you really want is missing some odd ball OLE object and is missing the key bit of information you want and you hope someone made a pdf or images of it so you can find out what it had.

    Also please visit your countries national archive sites and read the documentation on long term electronic documentation storage particular what are the allowed formats. Clarence Moon yes there is formal certificate in most countries to say you know how to archive documents. Claiming I know this by google shows you don’t know the topic Clarence Moon.

    I am a trained to maintain archives. The approved formats are highly limited for documents. png, pdf/a, odf, jpg(special cases) that is all. rtf, doc, docx are not approved for long term storage due to known bugs in design.

    Clarence Moon as normal claims my knowledge is a google search if it so simple why in hell did you not know that rtf .doc and .docx is not approved to be used by national achieves. Basically you are trying to hide your incompetence by saying my information comes from google searches.

    Google only helps you if you know exactly what you are searching for. OLE error in MS Office produced files I know about.

  7. Tar says:

    I tried to open an old Star office 5 file from 2002-2003 and guess what? Formatting is all wrong.

    Now I use RTF files only. They work everywhere, even Linux!

  8. Clarence Moon says:

    Newer version of MS Office does not always open older document correctly

    I am sure that your Googling found some case where that is true, Mr. O, but your waffling on why and the oblique reference to “third part” (is that your clumsy way of saying “3rd party”?) seems to mean that some non-Microsoft product actually has the problem that you claim to exist. What are the details? I am sure that the incidence of whatever it is is so slight as to make no difference to anyone.

    Explain it if you can.

  9. kozmcrae says:

    Tar wrote:

    “So many Foss tools break compatibility all the time.”

    So Tar points to someone else and says “They do it” and by his twisted logic that makes it okay for Microsoft to break compatibility throughout the life of their Office suite.

    You are no better than any other Microsoft attack dog. For your information Tar, it’s not okay if someone else does it. What some one else does is their business. Microsoft breaks compatibility throughout the life of their office suite to encourage their customers to keep up on the treadmill. It’s a fools game and you are here to defend it. That makes you a fool.

  10. Tar wrote, “there’s no way even to run star office binaries on modern Linux”.

    Besides the obvious question of why one would want to run an ancient release there’s the obvious solution of running an ancient release of GNU/Linux. Why would there be a need to run it on a modern release? That’s a straw man, a very weak argument. LibreOffice can still open StarWriter 3-5 files and all versions of OpenOffice.org

  11. oiaohm says:

    Tar to be correct 2010 does not open 2007 files perfectly all the time same with the referse.

    Reason 2007 and 2010 are both transitional OOXML. They are a mixture of binary and xml they are not xml alone. They are a xml file with segements of old .doc …. sections embedded. Also damaged. Interesting point is they are incompatible with each other. Particular things 2007 requires in .doc format inside the xml file that 2010 requires in xml format inside the xml file. Neither produces the other. Yes the compatibility between them is truly broken even if you tell 2010 to produce a 2007 file. Particular features will bring it to floor.

    ODF is proper XML. The proper XML 00XML appears in MS Office 2013. Libreoffice on the other hand can produce older versions of ODF perfectly. OOXML Strict is the one that is truly XML that no Microsoft Office suite can produce other than 2013.

    Sorry Tar you are claiming bogus that documents produced by MS Office 2010 and 2007 are Xml. MS Office 2010 and 2007 produce xml binary hibreds.

    Funny enough OpenOffice first importer for OOXML was pure XML OOXML to standard and it basically does not open a single document produced by MS Office 2010 and 2007 because they are heavily binary tainted. 2007 is insane even the page margins are still binary format from a .doc file.

    So OpenOffice and Libreoffice can open some Transitional OOXML from 2010 and 2007 they pass binary sections from the files into the .doc .xls…. readers to convert to something OpenOffice and Libreoffice can understand.

    staroffice files I guess you mean prior to odf introduction if you missed the format compatibility flags. Even for sdw files there are format compatibility flags you can turn on in LibreOffice to make Staroffice documents from 1995 display perfectly.

    “staroffice binaries on modern Linux.” By chroot you can. It does not use anything special in X11 or anything else.

    Tar
    “I should say OO opens them but formatting is totally broken. Nobody tests that part of the code it seems.”
    Yes they do test it. Yes it left displayed broken because other ODF programs may not render it correctly because some of staroffice bugs breach ODF standard. So you are better to know it screwed then on send the document and have the other person at the other end find out its screwed. If you know what you have to change you can make the print and render correctly. Yes it was decided not to save these options in the file format on disk even that options would exist.

    Tar the idea that everything should just magically work is a flawed one. At times stuff should display broken.

    Tar
    “Oiaohm, if you need to have spatch files, then you are not compatible and have broken compatibility.”

    In fact no you are incorrect. There is a reason for this. https://github.com/KDAB/Qt4to5 is another example of semantic patch. Going forwards its the only way.

    Having like QT4 QT3…. All loaded in memory is a waste of ram. So you alter the source to use the newer libraries. Source compatibility will be done by semantic patching methods going forward.

    This change started happening 4 years ago Tar.

    Compatibility is being done different because it reduces overheads. You don’t have to keep as many libraries supported. You only need to support libraries for binaries. You don’t need to support libraries to build source code any more.

    Tar is a change in how programs are built. That results in less memory usage and higher performance.

    Really Tar what is the difference calling a wrapper library to emulate old functionality and using a spatch to remove the need for that old functionality. Speed and less memory usage. Wrappers are bloated.

    Compatibility can be maintained in more than one way. Wrappers is one way semantic patching is another. When it comes to source code you really do want to use semantic patching. Why have a old program that is slow.

  12. Tar says:

    I should say OO opens them but formatting is totally broken. Nobody tests that part of the code it seems.

  13. Tar says:

    Office 2010 documents open fine in Office 2007.

    In the XML file formats there is no lockin.

    So what are you talking about?

    So many Foss tools break compatibility all the time. Even OpenOffice can’t open star office files, and there’s no way even to run star office binaries on modern Linux. Pretending makes you look foolish.

  14. kozmcrae says:

    Tar wrote:

    “Try and compile non trivial open source project from a couple years ago. There is no compatibility.”

    Is that document format problem? I don’ think so. So you’re saying because someone else makes it difficult to transfer data between versions it’s okay for Microsoft to do it? In the world of all things digital there will always be someone who will supply Microsoft with an excuse to screw their customers. That is if that’s your criteria for company behavior. Is it?

    Dick and Jane office workers are going to compile something? We’re talking simple documents here Tar. Something that should be simple but isn’t with Microsoft. Microsoft would like everyone to migrate to their latest Office suite so they create unnecessary incompatibilities in the formats between old and new Office versions. This is common knowledge.

    Over the years incompatible formats creates a real problem of documents becoming lost. That’s why we need a document format that’s independent from any one vendor. The ODF fits that need.

  15. Tar says:

    Oiaohm, if you need to have spatch files, then you are not compatible and have broken compatibility.

    That’s like saying old office files are compatible if you run it through a converter first. Makes no sense.

  16. oiaohm says:

    Basically Tar a stack of spatch files are like windows compatibility modes for old source.

  17. oiaohm says:

    Tar
    “Try and compile non trivial open source project from a couple years ago. There is no compatibility.

    I tried to compile XFM and discovered it won’t compile without tools removed from x.org.

    GCC syntax is also a bad area.”

    Not true you have to know what you are doing to build old source. There are what are called semantic patch XFM old with spatch applied for the X11 stuff removed builds without bring that insecure stuff back. Because spatch updates it source to modernday method.

    GCC syntax corrections are also spatch items.

    Reason I know I work on wine. At times debuging wine has to build stuff back almost 10 years. So the processes of dealing with these historic source issues is well known to the wine community.

    Just because you are stopped in your tracks Tar does not mean its not the right thing todo. Those errors normally are possible security failures in the source code.

    Yes your no compatibility claim is bogus Tar. Compatiblity today with source required a few extra steps like spatch application. I can understand a person not knowing of the existence of spatch and that you are required to use it to build old source on modern compliers.

  18. oiaohm says:

    Clarence Moon
    “Switching to a new version of MS Office is a painless process that preserves their access to their prior work and allows them to augment previously constructed documents with the new attributes if necessary.”
    Says someone who has not done archives. Newer version of MS Office does not always open older document correctly and there is a flaw in MS Office design that cause it..

    MS Office files will not always open because the OLE interfaces that have embedded binary data in the file were not documented and not supported by current day MS Office. The teeth of MS Office document design flaw.

    So please stop claiming complete bull crap on this Clarence Moon you are lucky you did not use any third part extension to MS Office. Otherwise when you upgrade MS Office you can be looking at a case that most of your archive of documents will not open. Yes this bug can happen between 2010 and 2013 as well.

    ODF by standard does not support a third party including anything that is not documented. Microsoft Office formats include OOXML allow you to embedded undocumented binary data.

    Chris Weig the internation recognised archive formats are. png images, text, pdf/A, odf and LaTex. All have something in-common no embedding of undocumented crap.

  19. Tar says:

    “But that still leaves the suckers with the old versions of Office holding the she it end of the stick.”

    Try and compile non trivial open source project from a couple years ago. There is no compatibility.

    I tried to compile XFM and discovered it won’t compile without tools removed from x.org.

    GCC syntax is also a bad area.

    If you open an RTF file made in 1995 it will look perfect.

  20. Tar says:

    The problem with open standards is that there is so many to choose from.

    Think mechanic. Mechanic does not have to worry about standards, they just get parts from c ar company. Different for each model.

    So it should be with IT. Standards are a design issue, and if the IT support staff are thinking about them then the vendor has failed

  21. kozmcrae says:

    Clarence Moon wrote:

    “Microsoft has never updated their formats without providing new functionality that required the modifications, Mr. Pogson.”

    What you are saying (in a twisted sort of way) Clarence is that Microsoft never change their formats without adding the ability to read/write those formats in the new version of Office. Of course. But that still leaves the suckers with the old versions of Office holding the she it end of the stick.

    Way to go Clarence. You are a salesman through and through.

  22. The suckers are the early adopters that grab the latest stuff from M$ automatically giving no thought to lock-in. The sheep are the ones who grab the latest stuff from M$ because that’s all there is on store shelves or because their mailboxes are clogged with documents they cannot read from the suckers.

    e.g. Suckers bought M$’s ’97 office suite and had to use IE 3.01… Waves of malware followed.

    Documents ’97 produced could only be read by that product and the world of business adopted IE 3.01 as sheep.
    “Office 97 delivers many new enhancements. For example, Office 97 includes more than 500 programmable objects; a new forms package, Microsoft Forms with ActiveX ™Control support; and the Visual Basic programming system, Applications Edition (VBA), version 5.0, which includes the Visual Basic integrated development environment. Visual Basic, Applications Edition has been added to Microsoft Word and PowerPoint, and both applications expose new object models. Office 97 also provides support for Visual Basic, Scripting Edition, programmable Web links and improved external data access connectivity. With these enhancements, Microsoft Office 97 makes it easier to develop a broad range of business solutions that connect to all kinds of information, including server-side databases, messaging systems, the Internet and corporate intranets.”

    see Microsoft Office 97 Released to Manufacturing

  23. Clarence Moon says:

    the suckers nudge the sheep further down the treadmill…

    Are you suggesting that Microsoft is somehow a “sucker”? The conventional wisdom is that the “sucker” and the “sheep” are synonymous, I think.

    You also miss the point that customers are delighted by continuous improvement in products that they use, particularly when their prior investments are preserved. Switching to a new version of MS Office is a painless process that preserves their access to their prior work and allows them to augment previously constructed documents with the new attributes if necessary.

    I have seen reports showing that previous users of Open Office have had to switch to other products in order to get any improvement in their systems. Do you think that is a good thing?

  24. Chris Weig says:

    If you want to freeze the format for all time, you must freeze the software capability for all time.

    And that’s why “real” computer users write all their documents with LaTeX! Pure text is eternal. LOL.

  25. Clarence Moon wrote, “Microsoft has never updated their formats without providing new functionality that required the modifications, Mr. Pogson”.

    and the suckers nudge the sheep further down the treadmill…

  26. Chris Weig says:

    Actually they are contradicting each other. It doesn’t make sense to spend five-figure money on improving LO/OOo when you want to return to MSO.

  27. Clarence Moon says:

    Microsoft has never updated their formats without providing new functionality that required the modifications, Mr. Pogson. If you want to freeze the format for all time, you must freeze the software capability for all time. Given the continued evolution of personal software capability, I think it would be very short-sighted to demand that a static format be selected by any government agency or commercial company or even individual user.

    Upgrading is the price of progress, Mr. Pogson, and is not an evil thing. My Office 2010 can open files going back to Word For Windows versions and nothing is lost. Of course the latest functions of MS Office are not compatible with those old file versions, but the new formats are fully supportive of them.

    What matters most is that Microsoft customers are not shut out from their old data when purchasing new versions of MS Office.

  28. The two stories are connected. Both are about struggling with that other OS’s proliferating/evolving file-formats.

  29. Chris Weig says:

    Either the cited article is BS or that has to be the fastest turnaround ever. I’m specifically referring to the mention of the German city Freiburg pondering a return to MS Office. That seems weird given the fact that they are among the cities who want to give Suse and Lanedo 140,000 Euros to improve compatibility with OOXML.

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