Innocent Bystander

A little tech, a little current affairs, and my view on whatever has my attention at the moment...

Current Terror Alert Level
Terror Alert Level

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Norway Takes Aim at Microsoft

I found this through, the Norwegan Minister of Modernization (can you believe it, Norway actually has a Cabinet level position specifically for a GEEK!) has announced that "Proprietary formats will no longer be acceptable in communication between citizens and government."

I've read the article about this announcement a few times now, you can read the entry on Tatle about it, and I'm still trying to figure out the intelligence behind it. Mr. Andreas Meyer (Norway's Chief Geek) made these remarks in a press conference and seemed to be targeting Microsoft, without actually mentioning Microsoft by name.

For example he refers to "the spreadsheet almost everyone uses" and also says that this is the last time he would have IT plans broadcasted on the Internet with Windows Media.

The Minister has directed all Norwegan government institutions to have a recommendation to use open source code by the end of 2005. He wants everybody in the public sector to have a plan in place to use open source code and standards by the end of 2006.

Now here's where I have an issue with this edict. So a .xls file is in the format that Excel uses, big deal... Microsoft Office is installed on what 75% of PC's and Macs maybe more... Not only that but can't you open and work on .xls files with programs like OpenOffice? So why go through the effort to force people off of Office?

The same goes for Windows Media files which the Minister targets specifically. Why is he making a big deal about it? Send his audio as an MP3 (but don't stream it because then you'd have to use Quicktime or Real, and those are proprietary and according to him that's evil), or his video as an MPEG big deal. Unless they need Digital Rights Managment on their media files I don't see the issue here either.

The Minister is obviously trying to push his people towards Linux, and yes there are some benefits to rely on that Open Source software... But based on what I've seen using Mozilla Firefox, I don't think they are nearly as big as many people want you to believe.

I switched to Firefox a few months ago because I bought into the hype that it was faster and safer than IE in part due to Firefox's open source roots. After several months of using Firefox, I say BULL! Firefox has had several critical updates pumped out in the last several months too. Now the Firefox missionaries will argue that they've still had to put out far fewer critical updates than IE... and they're right about that... for the moment.

Let's not forget that one of the key reasons there are so many vulnerabilities found in IE and so many exploits attempted at IE is in large part because it's practically EVERYWHERE! For a hacker (or wannabe hacker) it's like shooting fish in a barrel, fire off a piece of malicious code and you've got a better than 90% chance that it'll find a machine running IE.

Right now Firefox is "safe" because there are still far fewer individual users (let alone corporate users) that are running it than are running IE. However, Firefox is gaining market share as more an more people and media stories come out touting how great Firefox is, the more people will download it. The more people that download it, the better chance it has of catching the eye of the hacker community, and when that happens, well brace yourself for the weekly critical updates that we've all come to known and love/hate/ignore already with IE.

Open Source isn't the answer to everyones prayers, and I suspect that in a few years Norway's new Chief Geek will be signing a different tune about "propriety file formats."


Post a Comment

<< Home