If you are a reggular reader of Slashdot you probably stumbled on a link to the Groklaw article Novell "Forking" OpenOffice.org by Pamela Jones. In the article, she berates Novell for daring to provide support for the Office Open XML formats in their version of OpenOffice.
Miguel De Icaza, a Novell employee, has posted a response entitled OpenOffice Forks? where he writes
Facts barely matter when they get in the way of a good smear. The comments
over at Groklaw are interesting, in that they explore new levels of ignorance.
Let me explain.
We have been working on OpenOffice.Org for longer than anyone else has. We
were some of the earliest contributors to OpenOffice, and we are the largest
external contributor to actual code to OpenOffice than anyone else.
Today we ship modified versions of OpenOffice to integrate GStreamer, 64-bit
fixes, integrate with the GNOME and KDE file choosers, add SVG importing
support, add OpenDMA support, add VBA support, integrate Mono, integrate
fontconfig, fix bugs, improve performance and a myriad of others. The above url
contains some of the patches that are pending, but like every other open source
project, we have published all of those patches as part of the src.rpm files
that we shipped, and those patches have eventually ended up in every
distribution under the sun.
But the problem of course is not improving OpenOffice, the problem is
improving OpenOffice in ways that PJ disapproves of. Improving OpenOffice to
support an XML format created by Microsoft is tantamount to treason.
And of course, the code that we write to interop with Office XML is covered
by the Microsoft
Open Specification Promise (Update: this is a public patent agreement, this
has nothing to do with the Microsoft/Novell agreement, and is available
to anyone; If you still want to email me, read the previous link, and read it
twice before hitting the send button).
I would reply to each individual point from PJ, but she either has not
grasped how open source is actually delivered to people or she is using this as
a rallying cry to advance her own ideological position on ODF vs OfficeXML.
Debating the technical merits of one of those might be interesting, but they
are both standards that are here to stay, so from an adoption and support
standpoint they are a no-brainer to me. The ideological argument on the other
hand is a discussion as interesting as watching water boil. Am myself surprised
at the spasms and epileptic seizures that folks are having over this.
I've been a fan of Miguel ever since I was a good lil' Slashbot in college. I've always admired his belief in "Free" [as in speech] Software and the impact it has on people's lives as well as the fact that he doesn't let geeky religious battles get in the way of shipping code. When Miguel saw good ideas in Microsoft's technologies, he incorporated the ideas into Bonobo and Mono as a way to improve the Linux software landscape instead of resorting to Not Invented Here syndrome.
Unfortunately, we don't have enough of that in the software industry today.