Thursday, 31 July 2008

Locked-in - make sure it hits the right one

At first I was furious. I had a question to a tax advisor. He responded promptly sending me a compilation of information in a file with the extension <.docx>. Arrrggghhhhh.

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

The courage to have children

There is an interesting editorial in today's German newspaper FAZ on the decision and the courage it takes in our time to have children. It is from a lady around 30 who reflects the situation when she was a young child compared to the outside pressure on young parents today.

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

Big sports year for Spain

The last 4 to 6 weeks have been tremendously succesful for Spain by winning three major sports events in a row: The European football (soccer) championship, Wimbledon and today the Tour de France. Congratulations to Spain. And usually such successes jump over to the people of a country - bringing some boost and optimism to society. So perhaps Spain is going to be the place to be....

Monday, 21 July 2008

OAGi European Meeting - Registration now open

OAGi, the Open Application Group, are holding their annual European meeting in Walldorf, Germany, on October 21-22. Registration is now open vie a link on the OAGi website. OAGi is a leading organisation for global, open business standard. The agenda for this meeting looks again - as every time - very interesting. I am sure that this will be another highlight and I very much look forward to attending in October.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Do you like poetry .... my latest poem - a trial in English

On my way home today, on the train, I wrote the poem below. I pretty much like it and decided to post it here. It's a trial in English. Hope you like it as well.

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

or backward


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 learned

I learn by looking back

I see by looking forward

better be wise

after the accident.

eGovernment in Europe - Draft version of EIF 2.0 available

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

Democracy - basic lesson session 1

I was downtown with my kids today. We had to stop at the bikeshop to get a new lamp for my daughter's bike. Afterwards we had some ice cream. On a central square in town there was an information point of the German army, the Bundeswehr. It was a large information truck with a smaller army ambulance as an eye catcher next to it. For sure we took a look on our way to the ice cream shop.

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.