Monday, 22 December 2008
Every year, during advent season, it's Christmas market time in most German towns, and so in Heidelberg, too. I like the Heidelberg Chrstmas market very much. It is spread over the entire old town. And for a couple of years also with an area for doing ice skating, right underneath the castle and thus in a magnificient atmosphere.
The other day I took our camera along and took some pictures. Enjoy!
I wish you all a wonderful and magic Christmas and a good, happy and healthy New Year 2009.
Sunday, 21 December 2008
My kids love it. Especially my son is enthusiastic. He took some pictures with our camera the other day - some of them pretty good. You will see - this miniature world has got its charm. Who would not like to walk around there, bord a train and go down to the lake; visit the church, buy a newspaper at the newspaper stand and enjoy the peaceful life. But beware: there is a police, a fire station, and once in a while the peaceful changes - with accidents, fires and thefts it gets very much like the real one ;-)
Tuesday, 16 December 2008
Bundesamt warnt for Microsofts Internet Explorer
Finger weg vom Internet Explorer - das empfiehlt das Bundesamt für Sicherheit in der Informationstechnik. Eine Sicherheitslücke ermöglicht es, Schadsoftware über den Browser einzuschleusen. Es genügt, infizierte Internet-Seiten aufzurufen. Ein Sicherheits-Update steht noch aus. [...]
Monday, 15 December 2008
Saving of software licenses is one of the main advantages of the use of open source, concludes Cenatic, Spain's resource centre on open source, after studying sixteen implementations of such software by Spanish public administrations. [...]
The administrations see three more main advantages. Using open source makes the public administrations independent of providers and gives them the possibility to create a community around a project. This is noted in half of all the case studies. Using open source moreover allows the public organisations to adapt applications to specific requirements. This is a determining factor for 60 percent of the public administrations, Cenatic concludes. [...]
European Commission Report on eGovernment and eParticipation
The EU is investing heavily in e-government to help boost growth while delivering on the benefits of the information society, including greater cross-border collaboration, less fragmented research effort, and access to ICT anywhere, any time and by any one. [...]
E-government promises, and can deliver, better services at lower costs – something citizens are
increasingly expecting. As such, it was considered an important addition to the i2010 Action Plan. [...]
Friday, 12 December 2008
For more details on Helmut Schmidt see the English Wikipedia entry.
Go to the birthday blog and give your wishes.
Tuesday, 9 December 2008
Now there the trouble starts. If you want to jointly develop and edit documents you need to be sure that everyone can access the document and open it for editing. This touches on the issue which word processing technology and which document format to use.
To say it very bluntly: standards bodies should use a standard for that. The purpose of standards is to ensure interoperability and thus to facilitate collaboration. That's what the work of standards bodies strives for. And that's what standards bodies should take into account when deciding about their working processes, as well.
The Open Document Format (ODF) is an agreed and accepted ISO standard (brought into ISO by the standards body OASIS) and has successfully been implemented in various products and offerings including, amongst many others, OpenOffice, StarOffice, IBM Lotus Symphony, Google Docs. The great thing is: since all of these products implement one standard and compete on the level of the implementation, you are free to choose between either of these applications for working with the documents they produce.
In other words: the document formats are .odt, .odp, and .ods. So a document called, say, “standard.odt” can be produced with OpenOffice, I put in my comments using Lotus Symphony, my colleagues from partner companies use StarOffice or Google Docs or whatever for inserting their comments. Nobody is forced to buy one single, specific software. Everyone can use what they like best, what they prefer in terms of look and feel.
Therefore, the Open Document Format is best suited for collaboration.
Several standards bodies these days discuss whether to accept Microsoft Office 2007 formats. This means files with the extension .docx; .pptx, .xlsx. To be clear. these formats are not a standard. Office 2007 has, for whatever reasons, not implemented the Open Document Format standard. After the release of Office 2007 Microsoft pushed for a different document format standard called Office Open XML (OOXML); this standard is in the final process phase of ISO. If Microsoft are going to implement it for their products once it is final – which is not clear by now – the current Office 2007 format is already obsolete. Moreover, Office 2007 is not available for different platforms. So as a Linux user you won't ever be able to access the information contained in Office 2007 documents. On the other hand, Microsoft announced that they are going to implement the Open Document Format some time in the near future.
In addition, once collaboration is done, a compromise found and consensus reached, for publishing the final version of a standard there is also an open and accepted ISO standard available: the Portable Document Format, better known as pdf.
All of this drives me to the following conclusion:
- For document formats the Open Document Format standard is available, widely implemented and best suited.
- PDF is best for publishing final versions.
- Moving to Office 2007 does not make sense at all, since the validity of the format is questionable and since users of different platforms than Windows are excluded.
Friday, 5 December 2008
"IBM Creates 'Microsoft-Free' Desktop
Applications for Thin Clients Would Operate From Back-Office Server
International Business Machines Corp. is hoping to convince corporate customers that they no longer need Microsoft Corp.
IBM says it has created a "Microsoft-free" virtual desktop -- a complete suite of applications that run on a backroom server and don't require Microsoft software or costly desktop hardware.
The software package, available immediately, uses the Linux operating system and a set of IBM office applications that can be displayed on so-called thin clients, which don't have processing units or hard drives."
Friday, 28 November 2008
Notes on the internet, privacy, and political correctness - part I: social collaboration platforms and Human Resources departments
That's an interesting question, for sure. The internet, in particular web 2.0, is changing our lives and the way we communicate and present ourselves. What is good, what is bad? What are the ethics for our virtual lives.
In the coming weeks I will make a couple of posts on this topics. Loosely connected notes with reflections on the internet and the social consequences. Below you find part one. What I can already tell now: My basic thesis goes along the following:
(1) In the internet you find exactly the same patterns of behaviour as in real life, i.e. you have extroverts and introverts, excentrics and conservatives, etc. This is, however, not to say that an excentric in virtual life will necessarily be an exentric in real life, as well; and
(2) The internet and the personal information available in the web create a level of knowledge about individuals similar - but not identical in character - to the information your close neighbourhood has got. People who live virtual lives live in a global village.
Part I: Social collaboration platforms and Human Resources departments
A coffee break discussion the other day. I think it was me who mentioned Facebook. None of my colleagues had a profile in facebook. Some of them were registered in Xing. None of them used LinkedIn. In general, there was high scepticism about social collaboration platforms and about uploading information about oneself to the web.
My point was that it has, for sure, to be a personal and deliberate decision what you publish about yourself and in which way, e.g. have pictures you post visible to the world or to registered members of a platform only or to registered friends of you only. But I believe that this no less true and valid in real life, either.
Now one guy raised the topic that so many young people, to his mind, don't differentiate what they put on the web. But that this uncontrolled sharing of information could have very negative consequences. E.g. when someone applies for a job. Every Human Resources (HR) person can find all information on the web in seconds. And if there are pictures of the applicant lying drunk on a carpet or half naked or whatever this would certainly have negative effects. The conclusion was: too many poeple are not careful enough and don't see how much they can hurt themselves when putting stuff up on the web.
Now, you may already imagine, I did not agree. Not entirely, at least. I don't deny that there might be people - be it in Human Resources departments or wherever - who search the internet for information that compromises a person, in the HR case an applicant. If the HR person is sceptical about a candidate or if a strong selection process needs to be followed this is certainly used as a tool to get rid of some of the applicants - in the same way as the proper handwriting or such things were used in the olden days.
However, I am pretty optimistic that, first, the younger people in HR departments will be as familiar with all kinds of social collaboration platforms as the applicants and will have quite a different attitude towards them and towards using them than the older generation might have.
And secondly, the really good people looking for a job will simply not accept a job offer from a company whose HR department searches around in the web to find something that might shed a less good light on the respective candidate. The really good people will just say 'Sorry, if you use such methods I must be wrong in this company'.
So I am pretty optimistic that this issue will be a non-issue in the medium term. People will live their virtual lives and post information about themselves in some way, some more careful and reserved, others with the full vivacity of their temper. And noone who is clever enough of moving round in the virtual hemispheres will use the information he finds their against others - at least not more than to the extend that people do in real lives and real-life situations, as well.
Friday, 21 November 2008
The agenda was extremely well drafted and one session really built on the preceeding one. And the speakers almost covered the full range of opinions. In my mind, the open source community with just one speaker came a bit short; similarly one or more service providers were missing from the panels. The full list of participants as well as all presentations are available on the respective website of DG Enterprise.
In my view the workshop was a success. It showed very clearly that there are several issues on IPR around that impact progress in standardisation. And it showed that there are several good ideas available for how to proceed, how to improve the current systems. Among them are the concept of Soft IP presented by a colleague from IBM and the ideas for how to improve the situation around the traditional FRAND licensing presented by a colleague from Nokia. [FRAND stands for Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory.]
Moreover, remarkable in my mind were in particular the opening address by Director General Heinz Zourek (DG Enterprise) who, among other things, stressed the benefits of Ex ante policies and expressed that to him Ex ante is the future. Secondly, Director Cecilio Madero (DG Competition) was extremely good reconfirming the Commission's position on openness and open standards as well as on the need to be able to follow Ex ante practices. Director Madero thus reconfirmed the positions Commissioner Kroes had given in summer at a meeting organised by the Open Forum Europe (OFE).
What is important now are the next steps - what comes next after this excellent workshop. There was broad agreement that the workshop is only the beginning of a longer process cosisting of further discussions and other follow on work. I agree with that and - as I expressed at the conference - encourage the Commission to go ahead and pursue a specific study on the topic of IPRs in ICT standardisation. There are so many ideas around of how to improve the system, how to make prgress. All of these ideas deserve to be taken up. A study specifically dedicated on the needs and costs of standardisation should neutrally analise the situation and propose some recommendations for actions. This view was also largely shared by the last panel.
The Commission also invited everyone to submit comments on the revision of the commission's policy re IPR. Position papers can still be submitted till end of this month. Please see link below for more details: http://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/ict/policy/standards/ws08ipr_en.htm,
Sunday, 9 November 2008
In Germany, tradition has it that children create some lanterns and on - or around - St. Martin's day take a walk on early evening with their lanterns lighted. Usually someone on a horse clad in the traditional clothes of St. Martin leads the group and everyone sings the traditional songs about St. Martin. And most of the times the destination is a large square with a large open fire.
In the part of Heidelberg where I live this procession was today. Of course we joined - as we have done since our daughter was two and could do a reasonable walk. Now, with 9, she starts feeling bored - but still enjoys the sweetbread every child gets at the end of the procession. Our son, though, is still very enthusiastic about the walk, his lantern, the songs, the bonfire - and the sweetbread.
Friday, 7 November 2008
The paper gives an outline why open standards are important, what their benefits are for the businesses and governments as well as for innovation and for society in total. But before I produce a remake of the article here ... just click and download and read.
The topic was "The power of procurement" and much focussed on standards-based procurement of the public sector. Sort of the recurring theme was Open Standards and interoperability are essential for the public sector and that legislation should be adapted in a way to allow more effective standards-based procurement. The conference was live-blogged on www.livre.nl where a replay is also available. All the presentations will shortly be available via the conference website.
All in all, there were some very good contributions at the conference and I am happy to take a good many ideas along. Needless to say that such occasions are also always very helpful for meeting people and jointly develop new ideas and do some wild duck thinking.
So at the moment I am on the train crossing Belgium. It is wonderful weather outside. Beautiful autumn sun as we are going past the Ardenne mountains. Some very beautiful places amids colourful trees, small mountains and green hills. Really very nice.
For sure I am looking forward to being back home tonight. If I'm lucky making all my train connections I shall be in time for picking up my son from football training - which he will like a lot. And, of course, on Sunday my son and I will once again cross our fingers for Eintracht Frankfurt who are playing against Stuttgart. That will certainly be fun.
Wednesday, 29 October 2008
The conference was the annual European meeting of the Open Application Group (OAGi) - usually held in autumn. It was hosted by SAP in Walldorf (so just around the corner for me, which was nice since no big travelling was required) and I had the pleasure to represent IBM in the meeting. It was a very good meeting with very interesting topics covered - please see the agenda. The presentations will be avaiable shortly - please check the OAGi homepage. I gave a short update on the IBM standards policy which was perceived with great interest and which triggered some good discussion at the closing panel session on the second day.
This week I am enjoying a week of vacation. It is school holidays in the part of Germany where I live - Baden Wuerttemberg. So I decided to take a couple of days off and enjoy with the children. Unfortunately someone imported some ugly bug into our house and all of us are heavily sneezing and coughing with a strong cold. Tendency upwards, though.
So it's definitely autumn now. The leaves are falling, it has been raining a lot since beginning of the week and they say that it might even come to some very cold nights with frost - and with snow down to about 500m. That would mean that we might see the first snow in the hills around Heidelberg. But by the next weekend it's supposed to getting warmer again.
Sunday, 19 October 2008
Funkel is experienced and it was him who put the team together. There might be tensions, for sure, at the current situation. But Funkel should be experienced enough to manage the situation. And many other coaches "on the market" are not really better.
Anyway, I don't expect that Funkel will fired within the next two or three days. That's not the style of the current team management. Frankfurt will have the next chance to turn things round middle of the week in a match agains Karlsruhe (which had to be cancelled a couple of weeks ago because the stadium in Frankfurt was destroyed after a Madonna concert). If Frankfurt win against Karlsruhe and make some points next weekend against Cotbus thinks could be looking better. I won't give up hope...
Thursday, 16 October 2008
Commentators and would-be augurs these days are heavily trying to predict where the economy will go in the next weeks and months. Some say that a huge recession is ahead of us. Others say that recession will only hit America and perhaps Britain but that Germany, for instance, might get away with stagnation. Others predict that the consumer market will benefit from the financial crisis because as we are approaching Christmas people will be more likely to spend a bit of money on nice things and gadgets rather than keeping all the money in the bank - these days...
Whatever, there are many who say that if the American economy is going down and facing a recession, European economy will collapse, as well. And both commentators and business people are so keen on taking up this argument that it almost looks like becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Ok, globalisation has turned companies into globally integrated and interwoven enterprises. So if there is a recession in some part of the world auch a global enterprise will certainly be affected. And well, I really don't have the deep economic insights to give a qualified opinion. Yet, I wonder whether its really justified to draw the conclusion that every crisis in North America will materialise as a crisis in Europe - and across the world - as well. I wonder whether we are not about to talk ourselves into a crisis, into a recession, sort of under a fatalistic impulse. How strong are the economic dependencies between North America and Europe? Is Europe really destined to always get affected from what happens across the Atlantic?
In other words, I wonder how strong is the influence of negative, fatalistic thinking on what eventually is going to happen. Could we manage better with another mind set?
As I was saying above, I certainly lack to expertise to give a proper, economically and scientifically founded response. However, fatalism, I believe, is never a good companion anyway. Whatever the situation is all that people can do in such times is try their best to overcome the problems and get going again. Stay focussed.
And we should find a way to overcome any transatlantic destiny. Both North America and Europe are two very strong economies. They are interwoven and interconnected, but they still can exist on their own and have their own strengths. A well-working global economy, in my view, should aim at developing (or, perhaps, *only* strengthening) structures which enable one regional economy to "help" the other in times of crisis. I believe that globalisation has the potential to make this possible. Yet, again, it's not globalisation as such but globalisation done in the right way.
Call me a dreamer but I strongly wish that this will be one chance stemming from the current crisis to think about better ways to leverage a global balance of strengths - economical, scientific, societal, etc. - for the benefit of the people and for more economic stability and less vulnarability on a global scale.
Friday, 10 October 2008
(For part I of this series of reflections on the importance of Open Standards please see my previous blog entry of Sep 11, 2008.)
Those who don't like Openness and Open Standards often claim that there was no precise definition of an Open Standard, that the term created nothing but confusion and was, therefore, not good to be used. As a proof I have often heard people referring to the Open Standards entry in Wikipedia which lists about a dozen specific definitions.
Indeed, after the rise of the concept of Open Standards, many organisations as well as governments using the term and adopting the concept developed their definition. But this is pretty much the normal process with new concepts and terms, isn't it. And how much do the definitions actually differ?
If we take a closer look and try to boil down these different definitions in order to distill the common ground between them it becomes pretty clear that there are two major issues around a standard which are addressed in the definitions:
1. The development process of the standard;
2. The terms and conditions for availability and implementation of the standard.
This is, in fact, what makes the concept of open standards so important and valuable: that it addresses both development aspects and business aspects. And that it makes sure that openness is not, can't be and must not be limited to either of these aspects but needs to cover both of them.
As far as (1) the standards development process is concerned, there is a good deal of commonality across all definitions. Openness and transparency, balance and consensus are key elements of the process definition. Similarly, the notion that the development process of a standard must not be controlled by a single vendor of group of vendors, but that the procedures must be fair to all, is widely acknowledged and included in the definitions. To sum up: there is a solid consensus around what constitutes an open standards development process; this does, however, not say that this is always appropriately implemented in standards organisations, nor that the processes are always appropriately practiced.
Regarding (2) the terms and conditions for availability and implementation of the standard, this is where the controversy is located. Looking at the availability, there is agreement that an Open Standard should be available for free or for a nominal, low sum. But there is strong dissonance on the terms and conditions for implementation. While some require royalty-free licensing of intellectual property (mostly patents) contained in Open Standards, others claim that (F)RAND ((Fair)Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory) conditions are what characterises and Open Standard. Some definitions, e.g. the ITU-T definition, acknowledges both options and says that “IPRs essential to implement the standard [are] to be licensed to all applicants on a worldwide, non-discriminatory basis, either (1) for free and under other reasonable terms and conditions or (2) on reasonable terms and conditions (which may include monetary compensation). But also the “other reasonable terms and conditions” quoted above are a matter of dispute since they might contain constraints which make it impossible for an Open Source community to implement a standard even though it is licensed royalty-free.
In our recent announcement of IBM's new IT standards policy, we, of course, cover the issue of what makes a proper process and what makes a proper standard, as well. This announcement is all about Open Standards, its a commitment on IBM's side to Open Standards. Two of the IBM principles for IT standardisation touch on the issues of the standards process and of the availability of the standard for implementation, respectively:
Advance governance rules within standards bodies that ensure technology decisions, votes, and dispute resolutions are made fairly by independent participants, protected from undue influence.
Collaborate with standards bodies and developer communities to ensure that open software interoperability standards are freely available and implementable.
Coming back to the definition of Open Standards, openness is a spectrum rather than an absolute criterion. And it depends on the specific requirements, e.g. For a specific application, to define the exact level of openness required. As Bob Sutor outlined in his blog a while ago,
I’ve also put forth the idea that we should consider “closed” and “open” as two ends of the spectrum. Here “closed” means “it’s mine, you can’t have it” and “open” means “here take it, do whatever you want with it.” Most standards fall somewhere in between, with very few things being all the way at one end or the other.
Defining the term Open Standard, or more precisely: referring to the concept of Open Standards will be most effective by taking the actual objectives into consideration. This means to take into account that openness is a spectrum, as well, and that in some cases some concessions might be acceptable.
Clearly, in my view, some elements of what makes an open standard are non-negotiable. This concerns foremost the process. Openness, transparency, a fair processes that is free from undue influence are a must for an Open Standard.
Likewise, the fact that open software interoperability standards ought to be available royalty-free and ought to allow for Open Source communities to implement them without restrictions is essential. However, there might be other areas than software interoperability where more restrictive terms and conditions could still be acceptable.
But one thing is also clear: where the pendulum points too much towards closed on the spectrum it is no more an Open Standard.
The argument that there was no precise definition for Open Standards does not quite hold. In fact, the term Open Standards is a lot more precise and clear than, for instance, the terms 'standard' or 'specification'. 'Open Standard' always points at two dimensions: the process of standards development and the conditions of standards availability. And openness marks the line of demarcation and indicates what is still acceptable as and Open Standard and what is not.
The point that the term Open Standard was not clear enough is in reality very often a dummy argument used by those who want to avoid taking a position on the issue of license terms and conditions associated with a standard. The concept of Open Standards, however, does not allow that this aspect is being neglected or ignored. Because the aspect is highly relevant for openness and for the new paradigm of open computing which includes Open Source and Open Innovation as further cornerstones alongside Open Standards.
In other words: as the concept of Open Standards increasingly gains momentum. Open Standards meet the requirements in today's market place. The issue of a single, ever-valid definition is, in the end, a non-issue. After all, Open Standards meet important needs both in the first, second and third sector.
Sunday, 5 October 2008
I might be old fashioned but I have always shown loyalty to "my" old team. Those who follow my blog know that it's Eintracht Frankfurt. Now, in the region where I live nowadays, there is also Hoffenheim. It's the team heavily sponsored by the former SAP boss Hopp which helped the village team to buy good players and make it into the first division.
Yesterday it was Hoffenheim against Frankfurt. Frankfurt have had a terrible start into the new round and have not yet one a single match. They also lost against Hoffenheim - 1:2. But no, no, no - I won't switch loyalties. No! In fact, I completely lack any passion for Hoffenheim. It's Frankfurt - and I really hope that they will manage to turn around and play better football/soccer than what they got going so far.
Wednesday, 24 September 2008
To be very clear: the new IBM IT standards policy is above all a reconfirmation on the importance of standards and of IBM's commitment to the development and the implementation of standards. Yet, we will be less willing to accept just anything that calls itself a standard. We will much more be concerned about processes, about openness and transparency, and about the availability of standards for implementation.
And to be equally clear: the new IBM IT standards policy is not about leaving any standards organisations. We will look at processes more carefully, will more proactively ask for improvements, drive discussions about how to improve the overall quality of standards and standardisation. As Bob Sutor put it in his blog:
IBM belongs to many, many fine standards organizations and we look forward to long and productive relationships with them. These organizations and their work are strategic to IBM’s business and the products and services it offers to its customers. IBM is proud to be a member of these groups. [....]
With this principle, IBM is saying that it will increasingly look more closely at issues like the openness and transparency of a standards organization, as well as the modernness and consistency of the processes and intellectual property rules. IBM did so before, but it will do more in the future. IBM will sharpen and communicate its criteria to those involved in a cooperative manner.
Notwithstanding the various sexy headlines I’ve seen today, leaving a standards group would be a last resort. Though IBM is but one company, it hopes to use its experience to help resolve problems that are found in a constructive and collegial way, before the situation becomes too dire.
So no need to be concerned. IBM will be committed to standards, which is: open standards, as strong as we used to be. And this commitment will from now on be based on a set of principles, clearly worded, clearly and publicly communicated.
Tuesday, 23 September 2008
IBM's new standards policy promotes simplified and consistent intellectual property practices, and emphasizes that all stakeholders, including the open source community and those in growth markets, should have equal footing as they participate in the standards process.
The new principles for participation in standards organisations were derived out of a standards jam held over the summer with a large group of participants from industry, academia, governments, etc. A summary of this jam session is also available online.
Being part of IBM's global standards team, I am, of course, curious how this announcement and the publication of the principles will be perceived. Initial reactions from the press are already out. I even got some first e-mails from colleagues asking for more information. So there is some good first indication that the clear position IBM takes in this announcement creates interest and gains momentum.
I believe that these new principles and the clear position taken on processes and practices has the potential to stir some good discussions around standardisation. And discussion, actions towards change and improvement are essential. Standardisation has been abused in several instances in the past years. And a lot of confusion has been created around the development and the use of the term "standard", including nasty beasts like "proprietary standards" and "de facto standards" as well as arguing in favour of competing and/or multiple standards because they were, some say, essential for innovation. To be blunt: all of this happened because some wanted to better meet their vested business interests.
It is, therefore, high time for clear decisions to ensure that standardisation will, in a way, get back to its roots, yet on a higher level, matching the requirements and utilising the opportunities of the age of the internet, e.g. in terms of openness and transparency.
The new IBM principles are meant to help a bit in driving the discussion around standards into this directions and moving towards the respective consequences in the standards ecosystem. We don't need more confusion and abuse in standardisation; we need good standards that meet the needs of industry and users, of governments and society.
This is what is expressed in the introductory statement to the announcement; it is intended
To Encourage Improved Tech Standards Quality and Transparency, and Promote Equal Participation of Growth Markets in Globally Integrated Economy
Thursday, 11 September 2008
It may well be the most debated term since the rise of standardisation: “Open Standard”. I recently gave a couple of presentations on the needs for and benefits of open standards for industry, for innovation, growth, competitiveness, fair competition etc.
There are several people, organisations and groups that would prefer to get rid of the term open standard. They argue that it is confusing, not properly defined, etc. Needless to say that they have got vested interests to say so because, for one reason or another, they don't like or can't adopt to the concept of opennes and open standards.
In the following couple of weeks I will elaborate a bit on the importance of open standards, of the concept of open standards and its benefits. So here's Part I:
The concept of openness and open standards
Open standards is not just a term for some specific type of standardisation deliverable. It denotes a concept. A concept that takes into account both the development process of a standard as well as the terms and conditions of its availability for accessing and implementing. And the fact that open standard is a concept makes it very powerful and at the same time threatening to some.
The concept of open standards is, to some extend, also a reaction to the terminology-babel in standardisation. The term standard itself has got a number of different connotations. For some a standard can only be developed by formally recognised international, European or national standards bodies (ISO, IEC, ITU, ETSI, CEN, Cenelec, DIN, BSI, ANSI etc.). Others have abused the term standard by creating such ugly beasts as “de facto standards” or “proprietary standards” which is almost a contradiction in itself. Again others have completely avoided the term standard and use all kinds of expressions, e.g. Recommendation, RFC, Specification.
On the other hand, and most notably, the concept of open standards drives the world of standardisation towards the comparatively new paradigm of openness, mostly accelerated by the world wide web where openness is the key underlying principle. Open collaboration, open innovation are all concepts in succession of the revolution the internet has created. Companies and organisations are about to find a new equilibrium between proprietary and open – both accommodating to the new world and taking benefit of it. Open standards as well as the open source movement are major elements of this entire new ecosystem.
Given all that, it is not surprising that the concept of open standards is subject to a huge and controversial debate. It is, in fact, part of a broader change process in industry and society. And as always such change processes give rise to those who are ready to embrace the change and to move along with it as well as those who are afraid of change, not yet ready, haven't yet adopted their strategy to the characteristics of the new environment.
Yet, pretending that the changes don't exist, that the new paradigm of openness was not catching enormous momentum, doesn't help, by no means, and is nothing more but a big self-deception. Likewise open standards are a reality. The concept is gaining momentum and is increasingly being adopted throughout. And it has got huge benefits and a valid role to play in the new world of global standardisation.
Wednesday, 20 August 2008
Of course there is some speculation on reasons, as well. To me it reads rather simple: There has been less economic panicking last year and this year (so far), politics seem to run ok without big turmoils - in other words: people have some more trust in stability and their individual situation. This gives them some more certainty regarding their decision to have children.
I am really convinced that stability and some level of trust in the economic situation - both of the society in total and of ones own - is the most critical element nowadays for people to decide whether to have children or not. All the rest may be nice add-ons, but a lot less decisive.
And what's funny about that all in our mass-media democracy: last year everyone was lamenting that the birth rate was going down and down without hope and that the demographic pyramid was completely topsy turvy loosing all base for a healthy society. So here we go: give people trust and provide a healthy environment and they will take the right decisions.
Tuesday, 19 August 2008
Hence, where there is need for open standards there is need for properly assessing a standard in terms of openness. For that purpose, the EU Commission has complemented the draft EIF 2.0 with CAMSS, the Common Assessment Method for Standards and Specifications. The draft document has been published, as well, and comments may be submitted by September 15 at the latest.
In my view CAMSS is an excellent initiative and the method proposed does not only make sense but gives the appropriate set of criteria for assessing a standard in terms of openness. CAMSS provides a pragmatic approach for public authorities - and, actually, anybody else - to deal with standards and specifications and get a proper idea of how to classify them.
The detailed criteria are grouped in 4 categories. Suitability, Potential, Openness, Market Conditions. The fact that "Market Condition" is included here shows the strong basis of the EIF's open standards definition. Public authorities have a responsibility towards the tax payer and thus not only good reasons but every right to consider cost as a critical element alongside effectiveness and efficiency. Most notably, if public authorities wish to benefit from the open source movement and include open source offerings into their infrastructures they need to require royalty-free licensing conditions for IPR (in this case patents) present in standards. So the scale for assessment throughout the entire CAMSS is very clear: full openness is on the top.
Tuesday, 12 August 2008
I am currently watching the match on TV. Would have loved to go there tonight but it was sold out for weeks. In other words: I was too late. Frankfurt currently leads 1 to 0. But anyway, it's nice match and the result doesn't matter at all.
I have supported Eintracht Frankfurt since I was a young boy. And I've been fascinated of Real Madrid since I was a boy, since the days of Günther Netzer and Paul Breitner with Real. I was also always very fond of Real's coach of today, Bernd Schuster. He was an excellent player in the early and mid 80s, first for Cologne, later on in Spain for Barcelona, Real and Atletico Madrid. So, let's enjoy the second half... Eintraaaaaaaaacht !!
Sunday, 10 August 2008
Looking at this clip again today even adds a couple of aspects to it. In particular, it illustrates the benefits of open source software with respect to energy efficiency and green responsibility. The clip correctly illustrates the efficiency of Linux running on IBM servers. You can reduce space both in terms of office space (for storing all the servers) and in terms of disk space; and you save money both for requiring less servers, by using open source software as an operating system, and by a reduction in the energy needed to run your server farm.
Everybody talks about green responsibility nowadays. One of the best ways to act responsibly and to achieve benefits for the environment is by increasing the efficiency of the systems and machines we use. The development model of open source software has the potential for developing better software which is more efficient and thus better in terms of it's environmental balance. Linux is a great example here. And it was all already there in 2001 ... in The HEIST.
Friday, 8 August 2008
It happened again today over a coffee break. The typical discussion leading to the confusion about implementing an open standard on the one hand and opening up your source code on the other. One of the best descriptions of the two concepts I have read is from Bob Sutor in his essay "Open Standards vs. Open Source: How to think about software, standards, and Service Oriented Architecture at the beginning of the 21st century".
Let me try to roughly explain in my own words: An open standard is a descripition of how to build something. If you follow the description your stuff works and everyone who implements the standard can be sure that the same basic funtionalities exist and that things are compatible with each other. Open source, on the other hand, is a specific model for developing and distributing software. Open source means that the source code is open to everyone, that the writing of the code is done in a collaborative, open way, in a communty, and that everyone can download and freely use the code for his purposes.
Clearly, openness is the overriding concept that links both open standards and open source. And both, open standards and open source are key elements of an open IT ecosystem which combines both and leverages openness for everyone's benefits - in particular for guaranteeing interoperability, interconnectivity, fairness, flexibility and choice. Yet, it is important to know the difference between the two terms and understand the concepts. There are some guys around who try to deliberately confuse people about it and confuse the public perception. So it is good that openness has a certain momentum. And everyone can build on that.
Thursday, 7 August 2008
And this reminded me of Gisèle Freund. I was wondering whether her work is still available and did some search on Amazon. Well, most of her books are out of stock. But, for September, they've announced the publication of a biography - tranlsated from French to German - right in time for the 100th birthday of Gisèle Freund. The book is simply and very adequately called: Gisèle Freund: Porträt. I will certainly look for it in September.
Gisèle Freund is definitely one of the great artists in photography of the 20th century. She was a wizard on portraits and took pictures of almost every celebrity around in the middle and second half of the last century. And she was a remarkable woman. This articles available on temple.edu, reprints from the New York Times and the London Times, respectively, when Gisèle Freund died in March 2000, gives a very fine commemmoration of her and shows some of her best work.
Thursday, 31 July 2008
I am sorry but I am not on Windows Vista and I don't use office 2007. And I am not planning to do so. Nor am I planning to ever install a "fix pack" (or whatever they call it) so that I can open such files with my old MS Word application. Because, clearly, Microsoft with their <.docx> and other Office 2007 formats not only are a pain in the neck for users by not allowing for full interoperability but also create yet another lock-in situation.
So once I had calmed down I simply sent the stuff back to the tax advisor telling him that I can't open, can't read that file and asking him to save it as <.doc> or - even better - <.odt.>. After all, it should be clear to the world: it is not me who is locked-in; it is those who decide using Vista and MS Office 2007. Everyone in the same situation needs to make clear that it's them who have the pain, not us who strive for interoperability and use open standards based formats.
Tuesday, 29 July 2008
See the full editorial at the FAZ online edition.
But I can assure everyone who is around 30 and wonders whether to have children: go for it, it is the greatest miracle you can imagine. It's sometimes stressful, but always rewarding. Or do you really want to continue as you did in your twenties without children for the rest of your life?
Sunday, 27 July 2008
Monday, 21 July 2008
Thursday, 17 July 2008
after the accident
when I started walking again
after the accident
I decided to walk sideways
this pop song of the eighties
walk like an egyptian
found it stupid then
before the accident
but it was wise
I know that now
it was wise
egyptians are africans too
once very powerful
a great people, a wise people
I wonder whether their culture declined
because they stopped walking sideways?
Looking forward and backward
without having to turn round
they came from the back
they say they were three or four
no chance to see them
from the back
better be wise
better walk like an egyptian
learn from looking back
see by looking forward
what about the wound, you ask me
I feel it. I constantly feel it
no matter whether I look forward
I want to teach my children
I need to teach my children
convince them, persuade them at least
but they won't listen
won't believe me
they were three or four they say
did not carry their clubs for doing sports
no, never did sports, never
why did they have clubs
if they didn't do sports?
children won't listen
won't accept my knowledge
they are good children
but they don't know their father anymore
three or four
never saw my face
never saw my eyes
never saw my smile
never heard my voice
what about the wounds, you ask?
they say it was enough that I had
black curly hair
and dark skin
from the back
on my way home from work
used to work hard, work a lot
clean roads and parks
nice for people, for children
no dirt or rubbish
clean as in hospital
they say I was two months
some days more
after the accident
better be wise
after the accident
better walk like an egyptian
tried to teach new man
who cleans parks and roads
didn't want to listen
didn't know me
better be wise, man
I learn by looking back
I see by looking forward
better be wise
after the accident.
Yesterday, on July 16, the European Commission* published the draft for the revised version of the European Interoperability Framework (EIF), the EIF 2.0, with a 2 months period for submitting comments. The main objective of the EIF is to provide guidelines for pan-European eGovernment Services (PEGS) to the public sector in Europe.
The predecessor, EIF 1.0, is probably one of the best known documents of the European Commission. This is largely because it contains a definition of open standards which, among other characteristics, requires royalty-free licensing for patents included in standards. This raised a lot of uproar on the anti-open front with a large history of deliberate misinterpretations of the document. You could hear many who claimed that nobody in governments or public authorities would be allowed to use a cell phone or what other device if they followed the EIF open standards definition because all of these devices are built on standards that contain patents and require license fees. Such statements are, of course, a clearly overdone because they – deliberately – ignore that the purpose of the EIF has always been focused on eGovernment services, i.e. on business standards for offering services over the internet. They do not care about the device that's being used. The care about software interoperability.
I briefly read through the new draft document last night. I believe it looks extremely good. It is very readable and draws attention to the right topics: interoperability at all levels, avoid vendor-lock-in, facilitate efficient eGovernment services offering, supporting standardisation and innovation, and leveraging the benefits of open-source solutions on equal footing to proprietary product offerings.
Regarding the definition for open standards, the new document takes up the fact that there had been so many misinterpretations and provides a very clear scoping and contextualisation of the EIF. The document even concedes that “There are also areas where no real open standard or technical specifications are available or there may be other considerations that make it necessary to drop one or more of the characteristics described above.” But it makes also very clear that,
"It is up to the creator of the standard or technical specification to decide which kind of IPR regime he would like to associate with the standard or technical specification and it is up to the owners of technologies to decide if theyare willing to make their technology available under the proposed IPR regime."
Politically it is a very balanced and very wise document. It clearly addresses the needs of public authorities for developing and offering better eGovernment services. And it provides solid guidelines for realising eGovernment services. Moreover, it closely links with a parallel Commission initiative on a Common Assessment Method for Standards and Specifications (CAMSS).
This document and its underlying concepts have the potential to boost eGovernment services in Europe. That's its intention – and for the benefit of citizens across Europe it would deserve to achieve its goals.
(* This is under the responsibility of the EU Commission's IDABC programme. IDABC stands for Interoperable Delivery of European eGovernment Services to public Administrations, Businesses and Citizens. For the full programme see the IDABC home page.)
Tuesday, 15 July 2008
On our way back a demonstration by a group of about 60 to 80 pacifists had just started. It was a bit like a happening. The demonstrators were lying down on the ground as if dead and after lying there for about 5 to 10 minutes they were getting up again singing "life is better than death" and the like. And of course a lot fo police were around to ensure that everything goes smoothly and without conflict.
My kids were impressed by that. And for me it was a good opportunity to explain to them a basic element of democracy: the right to demonstrate. And it was pretty clear that I had sympathy with both sides: the army guys whose mission in Germany is anyway to prevent war and not to make war; and the pacifists who believe that war is not an instrument for politics and that it was better not to take part in any military undertaking and therefore not to join the army for a career.
I am sure this event left a lot of food for thought in my kids' minds. And in mine, as well: Education on democracy is elementary and we need to make it an integral part of our everyday education and positions which we provide our kids with. It is as essential as saying thanks and sorry - both are getting too often forgotten, as well.
Monday, 23 June 2008
The passage I was reading was about the philosopher Wittgenstein and some thoughts around craftsmanship. The essence was that in former times craftsmen did a better job than today and did not dare to create anything that was of low quality because the gods where everywhere around. In other words: someone who would have - as we call it today - optimised his product, e.g. by taking some lower cost material for parts that were invisible from the front of a piece of furniture, would have been at risk of being watched and being punished by the gods.
In our days such kind of believe has gone. And it is good that we have achieved the freedom of action we've got - without concerns that some higher instance is watching us constantly and will punish us at judgement day or some such occasion. On the other hand we are all constantly confronted with some kind of bullshit - bad material, low quality etc. Furniture is an excellent example. Blessed are those who inherited some solid pieces of furniture from their great-grandparents. Too much of the stuff you can buy today is mere plastic glued together.
Yet, many of us enjoy replacing their furniture once in a while. The average sofa lasts 5 years or so. No idea about the average kitchen - but given the many ads you get with your daily newspaper about new kitchens I suspect the 5 months will be realistic here, as well.
Have we accommodated too much such lower standards of quality which, in a way, are a natural result of our wish to "modernise" once in a while? I am not sure. Happy to discuss a bit. I will give the topic some thinking and come back to it.
Friday, 20 June 2008
Friday, 13 June 2008
Es handelt sich dabei um zwei Kurse:
- dem IT Summer Camp Heidelberg für Schüler/innen der Klassen 6 bis 9; veranstaltet von der SRH Hochschule Heidelberg;
- dem IT Workshop Mannheim für Schüler/innen der Klassen 10 bis 12; veranstaltat von dem Zentralen Institut für Technische Informatik (ZITI) der Universität.
Die vollen Informationen gibt es natürlich auch im Web: http://www.rhein-neckar-dreieck.de/2663.79.html
See for instance: http://www.bauernregeln.net/schafskaelte.html
Thursday, 12 June 2008
Thrilling days in Europe ;-)
Wednesday, 11 June 2008
Tuesday, 10 June 2008
EU-Wettbewerbskommissarin für offene StandardsEU-Wettbewerbskommissarin Neelie Kroes hat in sich ihrer Rede vor dem OpenForum Europe in Brüssel am heutigen Dienstag für offene Standards ausgesprochen. "Ich erkenne eine kluge Geschäftsentscheidung, wenn ich eine sehe", sagte Kroes, "und sich für offene Standards zu entscheiden ist tatsächlich eine sehr kluge Entscheidung". Niemand solle durch eine Regierung gezwungen werden, auf geschlossene Technologien zu setzen. Die EU-Kommission werde ihren Teil dazu beitragen, die Verwendung offener Standards zu fördern. Interoperabilität sei ein wichtiges Ziel, zu dessen Erreichen offene Standards wesentlich beitragen könnten. "Standards sind das Fundament der Interoperabilität". [...]
My slides are available publicly at http://www.openexpo.ch/fileadmin/documents/2008Bern/Slides/02.pdf
A full recording of my speech can be viewed in google videos under http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=6939594456529632141