Blunder Dome Sighting  

Hangout for experimental confirmation and demonstration of software, computing, and networking. The exercises don't always work out. The professor is a bumbler and the laboratory assistant is a skanky dufus.

Click for Blog Feed
Blog Feed

Recent Items
nfoWorks: The Harmony Get-Ready
DMware: Documents as Evidence
VC++ Novice: DreamSpark for Students
DMware: ODMA Futures Roadmap
Cybersmith: Software Craftsmanship Wiki
SeaFunc: 2008-02-20 Functional Programming Meetup
ODF-OOXML: nfoWorks for Harmony?
DMware: Office System Developer Conference 2008
Cybersmith: 10 Golden Rules for Mastery
Toolcraft: Making Discs from CD/DVD Image Download...

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Locations of visitors to this site
visits to Orcmid's Lair pages

The nfoCentrale Blog Conclave
Millennia Antica: The Kiln Sitter's Diary
nfoWorks: Pursuing Harmony
Numbering Peano
Orcmid's Lair
Orcmid's Live Hideout
Prof. von Clueless in the Blunder Dome
Spanner Wingnut's Muddleware Lab (experimental)

nfoCentrale Associated Sites
DMA: The Document Management Alliance
DMware: Document Management Interoperability Exchange
Millennia Antica Pottery
The Miser Project
nfoCentrale: the Anchor Site
nfoWare: Information Processing Technology
nfoWorks: Tools for Document Interoperability
NuovoDoc: Design for Document System Interoperability
ODMA Interoperability Exchange
Orcmid's Lair
TROST: Open-System Trustworthiness



nfoWorks: In Search of Initiative

I've been waiting to see more about the Microsoft Document Interoperability Initiative so that I can assess its value in the context of the Harmony Principles.  I'm wondering what nfoWorks might provide by way of resources, and vice versa.  The potential changes to ECMA-379 ECMA-376 that will be part of an approved ISO/IEC DIS 29500 also need keeping an eye on.  Here's the interim situation.

      1. Unfolding Document Interoperability
      2. Format Plug-and-Play
      3. Waiting for BRM Closure

1. Unfolding Document Interoperability

The first actions under the Document Interoperability Initiative were announced in a March 6 press release [1].  The release reported that day's event in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with additional events to follow around the world.  There was not much meat in the announcement.  I found the approach to be slanted in an odd way:

"The Document Interoperability Initiative focuses on bringing vendors together to promote interoperability between document format implementations through testing and refining those implementations, creation of format implementation test suites, and the creation of templates designed for optimal interoperability between different formats."

This fits with having plug-fests to test interchange and also having round tables to learn the concerns of the vendors who ask to participate.  It seems straightforward enough.  Yet I find an odd disharmony in the statement from Jean Paoli,

"“Microsoft believes that the industry has a responsibility to come together to address the interests of users in achieving greater interoperability and effective data exchange between widely deployed document format implementations.”

The notion that putting vendors together addresses user needs occurs in the statements of other participants as well.  Somehow, I thought we had reached the point where we know to engage users and representatives of significant user communities to find out what their interoperability needs are.   I guess I think I know what users want too.  Don't you?  Out of fairness, commercial firms may have a good sense of what customers are telling them.  I suspect we will see more about that as the Document Interoperability Initiative continues.  Still, I think the notion of "industry" here is too narrow.

Meanwhile, the press release led Mike Gunderloy to question the focus on commercial vendors with closed-source products [2]:

"So far, though, participation in this new initiative seems to be limited.  Perhaps Microsoft rushed to get this together to prove that they mean open business, but the only open source company involved in the first round of meetings is Novell.  Other participants (DataViz, Mark Logic, Nuance and QuickOffice) all produce closed-source products that work with one or another open format.

"If the idea here is to prove that Microsoft gets along with and wants to support the entire document-based community, they're going to have to do better than that. Until fully open-source projects such as OpenOfice and NeoOffice sit down at the table, suspicions will remain that Microsoft continues to guide the interoperability testing for their own benefit."

It is difficult to say what went into the initial selection and what the invitation process might have been.  Sometimes the most difficult part of having multiple vendors in the same room testing their wares is arriving at acceptable mutual NDA agreements.  Even if there is no need to share or discuss their code, there is information that can be taken away concerning product directions, product readiness, and also defects exposed during any lab exercises.  With regard to "fully" open-source projects, I suspect it depends on whether those projects are interested and organized to participate.  I would hope so.

The Microsoft agent-in-charge is Interoperability Evangelist Craig Kitterman, whose blog has interesting photographs and event details.  Kitterman ends his summary with an open invitation [3]:

"I want to call out here that this is open to any vendors who are implementing open standards based document formats and are interested in working with a broader set of folks with common goals. If you are interested in participating, please feel free to contact me directly ( and we can work together to see how to integrate your company, product and ideas into the next session.

"If you cannot participate directly in one of the events but would like to add your comments as to what kinds of things we can and should do as a community in the interest of document interoperability, please feel free to comment or shoot me email."

We're still in vendor church, but now there's a person who stands up for the activity.  Also, there are interesting notes on the round table held during the event.

I assume that the Microsoft-Novell joint laboratory provided the setting for the Massachusetts event [4].  Craig Kitterman's blog has a slide show that provides clues.  Craig reports that the next events will be in Korea and Germany.  I can't tell whether permanent facilities are available for periodic events and plug-fests, such as Port 25 and Building 20 in Redmond.

2. Format Plug-and-Play

The press release on the Document Interoperability Initiative also invokes the Interoperability Principles as part of announcing a new drop of the open-source OpenXML-ODF Translator software.  The tie-in:

"Microsoft has committed to support future releases of the translator taking advantage of the improvements in Microsoft Office converter APIs announced as part of the interoperability principles on Feb. 21 to provide a better integrated experience for customers to open and save ODF files. These APIs and the guidance provided by the OpenXML-ODF Translator project will also make it easier for users to take advantage of other document formats, such as UOF and DAISY."

The OpenXML-ODF Translator project (well, that is what it is called) will eventually be a demonstration of the use of the new Microsoft Office interfaces for smooth integration of new formats.

[Note to self. At some point, it would be interesting to see if it ever makes sense that there be a separate conversion interface for back-and-forth with particular harmonization levels/profiles, even of OOXML format.  I have no idea at this point.]

3. Waiting for BRM Closure

At the moment, it is not possible to do anything concrete and detailed with Office Open XML harmonization until it is known what the final ISO/IEC status of DIS 29500 becomes and what the final edited specification is.

For now, the only stable specification for working with Office Open XML is ECMA-376.  There's plenty to deal with there.  At the same time, I want to anticipate how an approved ISO/IEC DIS 29500 might impose the need for some introduce adjustments (with accompanying transition provisions).  The March 29 closure of the DIS 29500 ballot process will certainly be soon enough to intercept anything that happens with nfoWorks and the Harmony Principles in the meantime.

I have obtained the information that Alan Brown has made public so far [5].  I've found useful guidance on how ZIP usage and Open Packaging Conventions (OPC) will be adjusted.  I also searched out some items that address conformance and levels of application.  There was a proposal to provide for application descriptions that may be a future opening for what I have been vaguely referring to as interchange profiles.

My attention was drawn to Alan Brown's material by hints in a post from Jan van den Beld [6].  That post appears to have been withdrawn was withdrawn and replaced by a stronger, more-complete version.  I am hopeful that Van den Beld will provide a replacement that shares his valuable perspective on the history of Fast Track submissions.

[1] Microsoft: Microsoft Launches Document Interoperability Initiative.  (press release) PressPass - Information for Journalists,, 2008-03-06 (updated 2008-03-10).
This release confirms that something is happening.  I was left with many unanswered questions about the actual structure of the initiative and whether the labs were definite facilities or ephemeral events (at definite facilities).
   The humor of the press release update is that an occurrence of "Microsoft Office Open XML" was replaced with "Office Open XML," reflecting the separation of OOXML from Microsoft's possession.  And while one can't rewrite Jean Paoli's predilection for unqualified use of "Open XML," it is unfortunate that this off-putting contraction is used throughout the press release.
[2] Mike Gunderloy: Document Interop from Microsoft.  (web log entry), OStatic, 2008-03-07.
I'm not sure ...
[3] Craig Kitterman: Document Interoperability Roundtables & Labs - Take 1: Cambridge, MA.  Craig Kitterman's Interoperability Community Blog,, 2008-03-07.
The slide-show and description of the event provide the most visibility on this activity so far.
[4] Tom Hanrahan: Microsoft and Novell Interoperability Lab Announcement.  Blogs, Port25,, 2007-09-12.
Although focused on the server farm, Hanrahan mentions the areas of interoperability that this joint operation supports: virtualization, web-services management, and identity federation.  In the November 2006 announcement of this activity, document-format compatibility was also part of the charter.  That still seems to be the case.
   I had bet myself that this lab would end up in San Jose or maybe Idaho.  Instead, Microsoft and Novell found a more-interesting way to require comparable travel distance from Redmond and Provo.  I keep forgetting that Novell is already in Cambridge, MA.  Microsoft is expanding its own presence with a Microsoft Research operation (not to be confused with the one at the original Cambridge).
[5] Alex Brown: BRM DocumentsThere is no end, but addition (web log), 2008-03-06 (updated 2008-03-10).
The four downloads provide for ample reference until the post-BRM ballot closure period ends.  The original ballot comments and the ECMA TC45 proposed responses are not included.  We'll have to wait for all of that to be sorted out.
[6] Jan van den Beld: The BRM for DIS 29500: Open XML, a last-but-one, normal climax in FT!  Jan van den Beld (web log), 2008-03-09.  Replaced 2008-03-11 as "A new view of the BRM for DIS 29500 has emerged: Consensus prevailed."
This post has been deleted from the blog and from the blog's RSS feed.  It's conceivable that van den Beld reconsidered how much information to provide about aspects of the Ballot Resolution Meeting.  I don't know.
The value of this post to me is the great historical perspective on the ECMA-ISO relationship and how often the Fast Track (FT) process has been used with success.  I look forward to that portion being reposted in some form.  I am grateful to see that this useful and informative post has been re-issued with additional material.
   This post brought my attention to some of the resolutions that might impact the nfoWorks effort.  Fortunately, These are all available locatable in the Alex Brown materials; the original version of this post inspired me to look for them.  Now you can too.

I received my third Waggener Engstrom e-mail last week.  It pointed me to the Document Interoperability Initiative press release.  There was nothing there to talk about, with all links being to materials already covered about the Microsoft Interoperability Principles.  Later, it seemed that the OStatic folks could find some value in Craig Kitterman's more-substantial report and contact.  Since I did not want to go through the pain of registering at yet one more site in order to comment at OStatic, I chose to make the introductions here.

The ultimate trigger for this post is the BRM information from Alex Brown and the (currently-unavailable) background from Jan van den Beld.

The nfoWorks site is bootstrapping along.  The goal is to having enough structure in place that I can start compiling notes on available materials.  My first interest is identifying what is needed to build up some document-processing infrastructure with progressive layers of abstraction for processing of open-standard document formats under the Harmony Principles.  The first clue that the site is becoming something humans can use will be appearance of a genuine home page.  This will have the first links to content other than site masonry and plumbing.

[update 2008-03-11T17:14Z: I don't know how long it will take me to stop missremembering the number of ECMA-376, especially since all I have to do is look down at my computer desktop and the folder that is named for the specification it contains.  Since I needed to correct one designation at the top of this post, I added a link to the Ecma International source of the specifications and adjusted other statements in the body of this article.  I also checked Jan van den Beld's blog and am happy to report that he has put up a refined version of the deleted post that I found so valuable.]

Construction Structure (Hard Hat Area) You are navigating Orcmid's Lair.

template created 2004-06-17-20:01 -0700 (pdt) by orcmid
$$Author: Orcmid $
$$Date: 10-04-30 22:33 $
$$Revision: 21 $