Notable Events of 2007

Monday, 2007-December-31 at 15:07

There are several things that happened this year that I consider important.  This list is neither authoritative nor exhaustive.  It may not even represent the entirety of my own opinion.  With that in mind, let us begin.

  • The states of Minnesota, Texas, California, among others, considered bills that would have mandated open standard file formats be used within government agencies and between the agencies and their citizens.  Unfortunately, all of these efforts were stymied by lobbying activities sponsored by incumbent software suppliers (namely Microsoft and its partners), who felt that the bills gave the ISO-standard OpenDocument Format (ODF) preference over the proprietary and encumbered Not-so-open XML (OOXML) format sponsored by Microsoft.  They portrayed it as an effort to mandate open source software instead of established proprietary software products.  The gameplaying around California's AB1668 led Cyrus Mack to form BytesFree to campaign for citizens' information access rights.
  • The legislative battle mentioned above was actually a confluence of two different struggles going on right now:
    1. The struggle between those who believe that data should belong to the corporation that figures out how to obtain it and those who believe that data should belong to the individuals it pertains to.
    2. The struggle between those who seek freedom in the software that they use and those who seek to reinforce the control of corporations through preferring proprietary software.

    We saw constant wrangling and wrestling, in which the corporations and their allies continued to seek special preferences.  For example, in government procurement, seeking to ensure that the incumbent supplier remains entrenched, regardless of whether this is in the long-term interests of the agency or the citizens for whom it functions.

  • The GNU General Public License, version 3, was released in July.  You can download the video [torrent of Ogg Theora video] of Richard M. Stallman's speech at the launch.  [If you need a video player, try VLC.]  There were a number of disagreements to be resolved along the way to this event.  RMS lays out the rationale for the license revision, and I think he makes a good case.

This list is far from exhaustive, for example, it barely glosses over the release of Microsoft Windows Vista to a decidedly unenthusiastic reception and the still-in-progress attempt at ISO-ification of OOXML, the number of major computer hardware vendors that are now offering Linux pre-installed on some models, the moves that the music companies are doing to try to break the grip of iPod/iTunes (so they can raise prices on most songs and perpetuate their extravagant lifestyles), the failure of the Zune to significantly eat into the iPod/iTunes market, the large increase in Mac sales over last year, or the mixed results reported by users of Leopard, Apple's newest version of Mac OS X.  All of those are huge, and all of them are likely to have some effect on what the market is like in 2012.  But all of them take time to research in order to ensure the accuracy of these statements.

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Historic Preservation: Standards Needed To Protect Data 2008: Poor Old Michael Finnegan Begin-Again

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