OOXML time again...

Yep, must be getting close to the next event on ISO's OOXML calendar - Microsoft's second desperate attempt to shore up its threatened monopoly. I've been having a pleasant discussion with Brian Jones, Product Manager for Microsoft Office on his blog.

He's been trying to have a discussion on how other parties involved in the OOXML standardisation process seem to be doing everything in their power to derail it. He can't seem to understand why people would want to do that. I think that working so tightly pressed to Microsoft's ample bosom has clouded his vision a bit.

Here's my side of the discussion with links to the responses...

My initial comment:

Gotta say, Brian, this process looks totally shambollic. I don't think anybody is dumb enough to believe that you have honourable objectives. Neither Microsoft nor ISO have provided anything like a reasonable answer to the basic question: why do we need 2 standards in the exact same space. We're quite tired of all the drivel about Microsoft's need to innovate, because we all know how ridiculous a fiction that is. Why not just say it like it is - Microsoft can see its gravy train (*ahem* criminal monopoly *ahem*) slipping through its fingers and is fighting tooth and nail to slow the descent. Forgive me for not being sympathetic.

Why can't Microsoft work within the community to improve the current Office Document standard, ODF? After all, isn't Microsoft on the OASIS committee that designed ODF? Did they always plan to mount a rear-guard operation to undermine the ODF standard? Too open for you? By that I mean, actually open, as opposed to the name-only openness of OOXML... Pathetic.

Spin only works if people don't have access to the truth. Sadly, Microsoft, although the desktop's in your control (well, the part that's not being bot-herded), the Internet's hostile territory for you, and your flock of chickens is coming home to roost.

Good luck,

Dave Lane

Brian's initial response. Somewhat patronising, but I suppose I was being a bit inflammatory... Fair enough.

Next volley:

Thanks for the response, Brian.

I can't figure out why you keep doggedly trying to make it look like Microsoft's unilateral attempt at an alternative to the official ODF standard is "open" when it's not (I'm referring to your references to "OpenXML"). I believe some of the 662 comments point that out...

Regarding "the facts," perhaps you can point me to a source (preferably non-Microsoft) to support your claim of the parallel development of ODF and OOXML?

As for your assertion of 90% of MS Office users suffering - they don't seem to be suffering that badly when they make the switch to OpenOffice.org, which a) reads and writes legacy MS Office binary file formats as well as or better than MS Office, and b) seems to save everything in ODF format without suffering from "data losses" or insufficient expressiveness... or am I missing something. Is there some extraordinary font of additional functionality in Microsoft's latest Office which ODF is simply too inexpressive to represent? Perhaps you could identify it for me. Speaking of the facts, if I'm not mistaken, you're just spouting unsupported assertions.

As for "the ODF guys" - aren't you and your Microsoft cobbers part of OASIS? Why didn't you contribute to it? Surely - I'm assuming you're a smart guy here - you can see the fundamentally wrongness of trying to come along with an overly complex, product-specific, dependency ridden, patent-encumbered suspect mess and try to pass that off as an "open" standard (the gall) in opposition to a perfectly good pre-existing open standard written by a group of which *your company is a member*!!

It would be like America coming along after hundreds of years of a world (barring 3 or 4 rogue countries) contentedly using the Metric System and saying "wow, that Metric System... yeah, it's ok, but we have this great idea for allowing people to more expressively measure new and old things alike - introducing Imperial Units!" Mate, that dog won't hunt.

All the best,


nksingh (of Berkeley?) gets his oar in.

My response:


Thanks for your input, but a link or two to some source material to support your facts would've been more helpful. As for reflexive anti-Microsoftness... well, their dis-ingenuity is difficult to verify (which is why they use it), but palpable to those of us who have been watching them since the early 90s... They'd rather that we argue the technical minutiae of the proposed standard rather than focus on the basic question of whether it should be considered for standardisation at all...

No one has addressed the question of why we would want their unwieldy Imperial Unit standard (OOXML) vs. the existing, far cleaner Metric System (ODF) at all. Seems to defeat the whole purpose of standardisation if you have mutually exclusive competing ones...

Microsoft are clearly taking the gamble that they can leverage their (criminal) monopoly to squeeze out ODF and retain their file format lock-in. Anybody who thinks otherwise hasn't been paying attention.

Regarding Microsoft's use of XML in older versions of MS Office... so what.

Abiword, Gnumeric, Star/Open Office, and various other proprietary and open source projects have used XML file formats longer. Last year in NZ, a few alert people foiled an underhanded attempt by Microsoft to patent the use of XML as a means for storing generic Office document data... Thanks to bountiful prior art, it became clear to the NZ patent office that Microsoft had no claim, and Microsoft (rather than suffer loss of face accompanying a total withdrawl) revised the patent application to the point of toothlessness.

Microsoft tried and failed to push through similar patent applications in South Africa and other jurisdictions - like the US (damn that prior art). Microsoft subsequently tried it in places in hopes that it would pass through other national patent system unnoticed despite being rather easily overturned if anyone was paying attention. What does that say about Microsoft?

Microsoft is a deceitful organisation. We have learned over the past 20 or so years that you trust it at your own peril. Thus my reflexive anti-Microsofticity.



A few other related comments ensued, including an interesting question from BigAl to which I suggested an amendment...

Brian's response to several posters including BigAl and me.

My response to Brian:


Thanks for the response. Are you sure we can implement everything? Even the parts of the OOXML spec that refer to older Microsoft Office binary file format implementations, for which documentation isn't publicly available?

As for the OSP - perhaps you can provide a link for that, as I've seen the TLA, and assume it has something to do with a "promise", but I'm not sure how to find out what it actually means. As for promises from Microsoft... the road is spotted with the flattened carcasses of companies who put their trust in Microsoft (and its willingness to stick to things like contractual terms, anti-trust legislation, etc.). How many legal proceedings is Microsoft currently involved in worldwide? How many will it settle to keep them low-key in the media? How many will it obliterate by employing more lawyers and delay tactics? Microsoft's very good at that sort of thing.

Let's make no mistake - as a public company, Microsoft does what it needs to do to maximise profit. As a hugely powerful monopolist with massive margins and more money (and therefore influence) than most countries, its strategies include compromising ethics where convenient, and breaking (or "lobbying" to change) the law if the profit is greater than the potential penalty. Some people call that good business. I call it a disgrace.

Brian's response to that... with an invitation to describe what I'm "blocked on"... Open flood gates:


What I'm blocked on:

  1. there has been no good explanation for why doesn't Microsoft attempt to work with ODF rather than insisting on inventing its own standard based on what's easiest for it rather than what's best for the industry and the user. Your "90% of users" argument (see above) doesn't fly, sorry. Why not simply say what everyone knows: Microsoft cannot afford to let its monopoly go, and will do whatever is required to maintain it.
  2. Microsoft used various illegal and unethical means to try to influence the first ISO vote on the OOXML fast track process - bribing voters, influencing rules of order, etc. These infractions are well documented. Why should anyone offer Microsoft anything other than contempt now?
  3. Your colleague, Steve Ballmer, publicly claims that Linux infringes on 250-odd Microsoft patents, and yet refuses to name any of them. Is a corporation that publicly states that Linux and other open source software users owe them royalties for undisclosed patent infringements worthy of anything other than ridicule, much less trust?

Those are the first blockers that spring to mind - with time, I'm sure I could enumerate others. The fact that people are worried about the myriad of technical issues which make OOXML unpalatable is totally missing the point.


His response - I gotta say, he's pretty game.

In amongst it all, Andy came out firing with this little gem.

My response to Brian:


Thanks for the non-clarifications to address my "blockers".

Regarding blocker #1: Sun might have created ODF, but it was turned into a standard by OASIS, in which Microsoft is a participant. If OASIS was able to get ISO to recognise ODF as a standard then bully for them. Sorry to say it, Microsoft, you *missed the boat*. Your OOXML is reactionary, and too late. Why not just get on with doing the right thing and supporting *the open standard*, ODF. Don't you see how ridiculous you look trying to make OOXML look like an honest effort to provide value for your customers?

If a ragtag team of volunteer (and IBM and Sun) OpenOffice.org and KOffice developers (among others) can not only reverse engineer undocumented binary Microsoft formats (to the point where my company's customers use OpenOffice to, among other things, recover corrupted MS Office documents) but also implement ODF, DocBook, and various other open standard formats, then surely all the brilliant coders at Microsoft could do it before breakfast, right? Oh hang on - Microsoft put out a brand new browser to stem the threat of Firefox, and despite their crack team of developers, they still can't make it as W3C standards compliant as any other browser out there... I guess I shouldn't be too harsh - at least PNG transparency is supported now, something like 5 years after every other browser supported it...

Blocker #2: Andy, above, gets the gist across rather succinctly. The known voting "irregularities" collated on No OOXML indicate that Microsoft has no standards for ethics, much less software. The big question is: was Microsoft more successful in its deceit elsewhere and managed to get away with it?

Blocker #3: Steve Ballmer, like it or not, represents your corporation. He's obviously an embarrassment to the corporation (Linux is a cancer!), but he also shapes public opinion on Microsoft. If he says that Microsoft believes Linux and open source infringe on 250+ Microsoft patents, and then refuses to reveal which ones... well, I think I could introduce you to quite a few primary school children who could explain how immature that is. How can an organisation run by a guy like that claim to be worthy of trust?

Good luck, Brian.


Naturally, this whole thing pisses me off greatly, so I succumbed to a little bit of "in rubbing" with this little parting shot (I assume, given my last comment, that the discussion will likely end here :) Besides, I have to go to work):


On a slightly different tack - I was hoping you could give me some Microsoft "insider" insight into this little question. Despite the amazing amount of effort Microsoft went to in New Zealand to sway public opinion (some might interpret it as desperation) in favour of OOXML (!!), when presented by the facts - largely by some incredibly well informed NZ Open Source Society members, Standards NZ still voted against giving it the "fast track" tick with quite a few objections (45?).

Helen Robinson, MD of Microsoft New Zealand, resigned the following week. Coincidence? Hmmm. The question is: was she canned for having failed to "take sufficient measures" to ensure a victory, or did she suddenly find a conscience and leave due the persistent nausea she felt at being associated with the sort of behaviour Microsoft exhibited in the course of the voting process?

By the way, Brian, as you get flustered, your spelling suffers.

Damn, ain't I a stinker?

I would probably feel a lot worse about the damage I do to Microsoft employees' feelings if it wasn't for the fact that they wield such undeserving power so unwittingly. Their corporate boss has achieved its tumorous position in the marketplace largely by luck backed with quite a bit of nasty behaviour. As a result, the arrogance they exhibit as the incumbent gets my dander up, and I refuse to kowtow to the attempts by the public-facing members of their staff at appearing reasonable, amiable and respectable. I'm not saying that some of them aren't nice people, and smart ones too - but those that are both principled and intelligent must be carrying a substantial load of cognitive dissonance if they can reconcile the behaviour of the corporate entity with their desire to be good people... I've taken it upon myself to act as their aversion therapist.

Right, back to work.

(a bit later) But wait! There's more - Brian has responded again...

A parting shot:

Well defused, Brian. Good work. Actually, I'm intrigued by the fact that you continue to engage, despite the fact that only sycophants will find your reasoning... reasonable. I was considering asking you about brainwashing earlier but decided that would be too patronising, even for me.

Religious zeal implies "blind faith", something which I don't have. I do, however, have confidence (based on evidence) that my observations of the world are every bit as relevant as those you have made. I also believe the my perspective of Microsoft's position in the world, being where I am (in the IT "trenches" outside of the US of A), is quite different from - and no less valid than - yours.

It's fairly clear to me that, though you're probably a pretty nice guy, you're too closely aligned to your paycheck to recognise how Microsoft's actions ripple through the IT world like a bull in a china shop (with an equally oblivious body awareness, I might add).

As I did during the NZ-based OOXML debate I had with your recently emigrated Redmond-based colleague (another casualty of the NZ debacle?) Sean McBreen in the days leading up to SNZ's unfavourable (to Microsoft) ruling, I'll take this opportunity to refer to Upton Sinclair's sage words:
"It's difficult to get a man to understand something if his salary depends on him not understanding it."

With OOXML, Microsoft is try to prove to itself that it's influential. Don't worry, it is. But for all the wrong reasons. Eventually, it'll all come out in the wash, and sadly, despite the bulk of Microsoft's empire, it won't be pretty...

Just remember, Microsofties - non-Microsoft IT professionals out in the world out number you substantially. It would behoove the team there in Redmond to refresh their understanding of the concept of "goodwill".

Again, best of luck - I hope, when the dust settles, that you're still standing. If so, pop down to NZ, and I'll buy you a beer just to show there're no hard feelings.



All I can say, Brian, is thanks for the amiable banter.

And, lo and behold, Brian responds again - and with an unexpectedly generous offer...

Wow, that's a very magnanimous gesture, Brian - and I must say, I wasn't expecting it. Thanks, don't mind if I do suggest some changes to Microsoft's approach:


  1. Support ODF in all Microsoft products as an integrated file format, on par with legacy binary MS Office formats - not a lame aftermarket plug-in. Users should be able to select "always save in ODF format rather than OOXML". By all means offer OOXML, too, if you want.
  2. Stop trying to push for OOXML ISO standardisation. You don't need to - by implementing it in MS Office, it's going to have widespread use anyway by (and effectively lock-in) those who don't know any better (i.e. those who use Outlook Express, for example - sorry, couldn't resist :)) and if your software fully and seamlessly supports ODF as an alternative (non-native) format, you wouldn't need OOXML standardised to bid for those meaty contracts in places like Massachusetts, Paris, Vienna, etc.
  3. I want to see Microsoft *actually* cooperate with the global IT community and do something *right*, rather than something designed to give Microsoft's monopoly further anti-competitive leverage; for Microsoft to actually *be* trustworthy, rather than paying hordes of PR staff to make it *appear* trustworthy; to use words like "open", "genuine", "myth", "shared", and "trustworthy computing" in the way that most people think of them in the context of IT rather than as 'SoftSpeak[TM] - where black is white and white black.
  4. I'd love to see Microsoft lobby the US government to repeal the DMCA, discontinue (and invalidate existing) Software Patents, and perhaps, while they're at it, scrap the "Patriot" Act.
  5. I want Microsoft to accept the fact that monopolies are ultimately bad for everyone. In the worst case, monopoly of freedom leads to painful revolution, in which the monopolists tend to suffer. In fact, I believe that the US Constitution makes a few references to that possibility...
  6. To gain goodwill, Microsoft can make the following gestures:
    • gift all of its software patents (and I encourage IBM and other software patent holders to do this, too) to http://www.patent-commons.org, regardless of the eventual fate of Software Patents,
    • publish, under the Creative Commons license of its choice, all relevant documentation for all MS Office/Exchange/AD/SharePoint-related file formats, data structures, and communication protocols to allow anyone to build truly interoperable software without resorting to reverse engineering,
    • release the Linux versions of all the MS applications that are no doubt running in MS Research facilities as I type - fill in the others as time allows. I reckon many people would even be willing to pay some sort of fee for using them. I'll leave it to you guys to figure out the details...
    • stop referring to "Shared Source" as if it was somehow equivalent to actual open source software.
    • make "Microsoft Genuine Advantage"... advantageous to someone besides Microsoft
    • bloody well ditch the Trident rendering engine for IE and adopt a working, reasonably standards aware one like Webkit or Gecko. The GPL lets you do it, you know... I mean, you're giving IE away anyhow.
    • take the Microsoft PR and Legal departments out back, give 'em a beer, a slap on the back, and then sack the lot of them. Permanently.

Microsoft - rather than trying to retain its ability to manipulate the market by force - could actually compete by producing *better technology*... the profit margins might go down in the short term (with 90%+ profit on each copy of MS Office, I'd think you'd have a bit of margin to spare, eh), but I'm confident that Microsoft could actually do much better in the long run, and have a more sustainable business, if it had a bit more focus. And didn't have to spend so much time engineering software to break if it wasn't used in accordance to its arcane licensing terms... After all, at the current rate of "innovation" it's that self-protecting overzealous complexity that will eventually make Microsoft a non-starter in the marketplace.

The suggestions above would be a start down the road to reformation for Microsoft - in my humble opinion. Over time, people might allow themselves to be convinced that you weren't trying to lock them in, to fleece them, to "upsell" them or simply get them over a barrel to maximise per-customer revenue. And - get this - you wouldn't be. But that would be a perfect world.


Thanks for that, I feel cleansed.

Back to work.


While I was away over the weekend, Brian responded to my suggestions, sorta. juan commented in a way that seemed to support for my position, and BigAl chimed in, and was somewhat rebuffed, somewhat naively, as far as I'm concerned, by "Andrew". I was, of course, moved to rebut.

Hi again Brian,

Apologies for the delayed response! I've been away for the weekend in the Alps north of Christchurch... Gorgeous summer weather. :)

Thanks again for giving me the opportunity to indulge my fantasies about what - broadly speaking - Microsoft could do to earn my respect. Yes, I know your question was specifically about the spec, but I am allowed to dream, aren't I? I'm just sorry that you didn't comment on some of the more realistic options I threw on the table.

As for your responses... hmmm, they don't seem to have that fresh crinkle of veracity about them...

  1. I could be mistaken, but I think that you've got a precedent for natively supported non-native file formats in MS Word. If the list of MS file formats OpenOffice im/exports is any indication (I can't check a recent version of MS Word haven't used MS Office since I wrote my thesis in 4.3 back when I lived and worked across the lake from Redmond - and based on the miserable experience swore never to use a Microsoft product again - around 1994) then you're already supporting at least a dozen outdated (formerly native) file formats and non-native integrated (from the UI perspective) file formats.

    From memory, I recall that Plain text, Rich Text (RTF?), HTML, and a few (now obsolete) MS Office legacy binary file formats are supported for both read and write, no? What makes ODF so different?

    Aren't there libraries in MS Office's well structured object oriented framework, with clear functional boundaries, to make adding this sort of thing fairly trivial? Surely all those billions of R&D dollars that have gone into MS Office would have resulted in a clean, well documented code base, right? Nobody'd spend all that money just on hiring a huge army of people to test all the features in an office suite by brute force trial and error? And surely it didn't take all that R&D funding to adopt the "Ribbon"?

    If that's not the case, you might want to consider quietly borrowing the file parsing/writing code from OpenOffice or KOffice because those teams seem to be able to add pretty comprehensive support for new formats (e.g. ODF) in one or two open source development cycles... (nb. from experience, the ratio is 3 to 10 open source development cycles : one Microsoft development cycle)

  2. I'm very skeptical that any government said "Please provide us with an ISO standard file format for Microsoft Office - that's got both the words 'Office' and 'Open' in its name - and which is

    • completely new and unproven
    • requires us to purchase another wave of software upgrades from Microsoft (who has a 60+% profit margin, assuming substantial 'discounts'),
    • which is completely incompatible to the already ISO approved ODF file format (which is what we specifically requested in public), and
    • which no one, not even Microsoft, has completely implemented.

    Oh, and make sure that through your arrangement with the ECMA, you retain the right to alter the spec unilaterally in future, thus potentially breaking any other implementations." Isn't that what this:

    Frankly, Brian, I appreciate your willingness to engage in heady banter, but please I don't insult my intelligence.

    I suspect what governments around the world (I've listed a couple examples in previous comments - more are listed elsewhere, e.g. on http://noooxml.org, although you might find it hard to find them since searching on Open Document Format and Open Office seems to return a lot of hits for Office Open XML Document Format... Coincidence? I think not. Namespace hijacking? I think so. Mildly clever, but in drunk frat-boy sort of way) said something like:

    "There's something we didn't consider when we first started using Microsoft Office - every document we create digs us deeper into the proprietary format-induced hole some refer to as the impending 'Digital Dark Ages.' We have been entrusted with the responsibility of retaining - in an accessible form - the peoples' information for posterity. Eventually, someone's going to figure out that you guys have us totally over a barrel, and we're going to get voted out of office (or at least have to scramble to find some scapegoats). Please, oh please stop this madness, and make your software conform to open document standards so that we can at least *start* to turn this dire situation around."

    What I'm saying is that they didn't tell you make OOXML - I wouldn't believe that for a second. They told you to solve a serious problem created - let's face it - by your corporate employer's past business practices.

    Let's be clear about this - Microsoft chose to use OOXML rather than ODF because it was seen as a way to retain its monopoly hold on the "office franchise". If OOXML got a few testimonials of support from a few government officials after some fancy dinners and a game or two of golf, I wouldn't be too surprised.

  3. Don't get me wrong on this one! I don't disagree that Microsoft innovates! Not at all - on the contrary: Microsoft certainly innovates in

    • PR where, for example, Vista is a huge success "beating all previous sales records", where Zune is "tops in its category" on Amazon (what else is in that category?),
    • legal hackery (e.g. brilliantly liability-free End User License Agreements)
    • and "unofficial" influence (e.g. almost undetectable influence of government agencies in Nigeria, the US, Norway, Switzerland, and just about every other country, and only occasionally getting caught...).

    I don't believe that either of Microsoft's only 2 real profit centres demonstrate significant *technical* innovation. Vista is an unmitigated disaster - even Microsoft is starting to hint in the press that this is the case, in hopes of cushioning the stock market reaction when it becomes undeniable.

    MS Office 2007 is probably the best nag in the Microsoft stable, but I gotta say the "Ribbon Interface" which is the only new feature I've really seen touted, isn't all that exciting. Nor is it necessarily all that innovative. See, for example:
    http://tirania.org/blog/archive/2007/Aug-30-1.html (see section on Prior Art)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ribbon_(computing) (see "Controversy" section)

    Wouldn't it bunch Microsoft's knickers if, rather than simply copying Apple and Xerox, the major innovation in their flagship product was in fact copied from a open source applications developed by rag-tag bunch of uncouth, self-funded, idealistic "computer enthusiasts"?

  4. Come on, Brian, I'm sure as a thinker and principled person you must have a view on software patents! Seems the haloed bossman emeritus had a position on the issue:

    "If people had understood how patents would be granted when most of today's ideas were invented, and had taken out patents, the industry would be at a complete standstill today." William Gates III, 1991

  5. Microsoft does, however, want to maintain a monopoly on the desktop, and leverage that to achieve a monopoly of the earbud, server room, cellphone, and everything in between, no? You know what something that grows without regard to its environment is normally called? Yep, a cancerous tumour (unless, of course, you're asking Steve Ballmer, in which case it's Linux).

  6. Don't go all coy and bashful on me now, Brian. I'd be somewhat embarrassed for Microsoft if they weren't hedging their bets. Surely they can see the writing on the wall. Vista's a dud, Leopard is clawin' their asses, and Linux (with no handy sales figures to provide real evidence of uptake) with gPC, OLPC, Ubuntu, etc. are attacking on every other front... Needless to say, if MS Office can run on OS X, then it's not a huge stretch to run it on a Linux desktop.

    Quick story: I once asked a PR manager at the Jade Corporation (a Microsoft partner, I believe, based here in Christchurch, NZ) when they would have a Linux version of their software system available, and he said "never - there's been absolutely no demand from our customers whatsoever" with a smug smile. Two weeks later, they bombarded the media with the release of Jade for Linux, version 1.0... That was something like 5 years ago. And still nobody's heard of them...

    Oops - apologies about the "f)" - it was just supposed to be another bullet point.

    Right - you requested my specific complaints about OOXML, so here they are.

    I, personally, have no specific *technical* complaint about OOXML. I leave it to my colleagues in the NZ Open Source Society like Matthew Cruickshank (see http://holloway.co.nz/docvert/ to see why he has an interest) to read and digest 6000 specs.

I do, however have three fundamental problems with OOXML:

  1. the fact that you have claimed that its purpose is to somehow (and I'm not sure I understand how OOXML can possibly do this) support "legacy binary file formats" without explicitly including the full specification for those binary formats, too. I think that's a total misdirection (as does BigAl for one - any others?) and I resent it.
  2. the fact that Microsoft trying to make OOXML into an ISO standard.
  3. the fact that Microsoft has actively tried to game (some might choose a more accurate and less charitable term) the ISO system.

ODF is *the* ISO standard for office documents. OOXML is not, nor should it be. Microsoft wants to use OOXML, and that's great, go for it. It doesn't concern me as I'm not ever likely to run MS Office (particularly since it seems it'll never run on Linux, and you won't see me with Vista... ever). But two different standards for the same thing is a senseless waste of resources. ODF and OOXML server exactly the same functional domain. Microsoft didn't say "no can do" when it came to supporting Word Perfect's file format back in the days when there was a competitor, did it? Of course, now Microsoft more or less owns Corel, no?

@Andrew - Sorry, I'm afraid you're a bit mixed up. In reference to your point #2: two standards for the same thing != choice. Two (or more) different *implementations* of the *same standard* = choice.

You're confusing choice with "monopoly protection".

Two standards for the same thing means lost Mars Climate Orbiters due to one team inadvertently sending telemetry data in imperial units rather than the metric units the telemetry software was designed for... That's what we call a "humiliating disaster".

Also, can you please be a bit more specific about the "improvements" in Microsoft Office 2007 over what's available in OpenOffice.org 2.3? I'd like to know, because perhaps - if I agree with your meaning of "shambolic" (I have my own - see my first comment above) - I might be able to do something to help fix the shortcomings of OOo.

All the best to both of you,