A pattern is emerging

And so are the three stooges. I have been wondering what Microsoft would try after having failed buying a fast-track standardization of OfficeOpen XML (and I’ve been wondering why nobody has sued Microsoft for break of trademark for that name). It’s getting clearer: in the past few days all over the it-related web stories have started sprouting that spread the meme that ODF supporters are leaving the sinking ship, that ODF isn’t a good enough standard for all document needs now and in the future and that since we’ll need to interoperate with OOXML anyway, why not have it standardized. All backed up by statements from some ODF Foundation spokesperson. But while ODF Foundation has a very grand sounding name, it’s just two or three crackpots who failed to make money out of ODF and are now trying to make money out of something else.

But even though I’m not a conspiracy nut, I do think I’m detecting a pattern here. If you cannot convince people your standard is good enough, try to convince them other standard sucks, too. And for anyone wondering what exactly is wrong with OOXML (apart from the problem that even Microsoft doesn’t implement it in its own office applications), please look at the Eooxml Objections Clearinghouse.

A very weird feeling…

As long as I’ve had the right to vote, I’ve always been able to say “I didn’t vote for these idiots” whenever a cabinet minister did something silly or evil. Being a natural born conservative about social issues — I want everything to stay the way it was in the seventies — for the first ten years of my life as a voter I voted Green Left. Then, about nine years ago when I got fed-up with some of Green Left’s sillier shibboleths I switched allegiance to a party with about as little chance of ever getting into the cabinet. Or so I thought.

Well, the easy times are over. No longer for me the old cop-out “who voted for these idiots? Not me!”

Dress for Success

David Wheeler (who I very much respect — see his work on OpenFormula) has written a nice article on what the well-dressed hacker should wear when going for success.

And… I agree. Kind of. Of course, a tie only gets in the way when coding, and is rather unhygienic. But I still like to be a natty dresser, I don’t wear t-shirts except in summer, as sleep-wear. And I take a shower every morning, sometimes an additional bath in the evening, I comb my hair and beard and all that.

But there’s a problem: ordinary clothes, as found in ordinary shops are horribly buggy. Socks with seams that cut through your toes if you wear shoes. Shoes that cannot be resoled by even the most competent cobbler. Trousers that lose their form after their first encounter with the washing machine (and that washing machine has usability issues worse than KDE, Gnome and mwm combined). Pulls that seem to grow faster than their owner when he was a toddler. The list goes on and on. Besides, I don’t fit off-the-rack clothes very well: what fits around my neck doesn’t fit my arms. Fortunately, after a dozen years of marriage, I don’t have theĀ  problem anymore that my waist belongs in the children’s department my legs have long out-grown. Embonpoint is the watchword nowadays. (Only not really nowadays — seven weeks of Lent have taken their toll.). And I’m very particular about my shirts.

So… Natty I may want to be, with the full complement of clothes: morning suit, mourning suit, quiet twill, understated gray, soup & fish, tweed for walking tours and all that, but one has to realize that whatever one buys ready-made will never really fit. And a business suit that doesn’t fit is a hoot: whether it’s C&A or Armani, Brooks Brothers or We. The only real option is made-to-measure. Which, unfortunately, is out of reach for this impecunious hacker… But I can drool, can’t I. Shirts that fit… Tell you what, David, as soon as I can afford it, I’ll dress to please Peter Quinn! Otherwise, it’s not worth it, taking the effort.

Grab the opportunity!

There are such wonderful new opportunities these days, up for grabs for any self-respecting intelligence agency eager to get on in the world. For instance, the public transport companies in the Netherlands have decided that paper tickets are so past tense — chip cards are where it is. And unless you pay extra, your chipcard will be personalized and you need to swipe it at the beginning and at the end of every journey. And those details will be recorded. And kept, into the ages of ages.

Which we, happy customers, won’t mind at all. Dutch Rail knows its customers, said their boss recently, and he just knows we won’t mind. And of course we will be delighted if this information is used for commercial purposes — and we don’t like it, we’ll just be glad to pay a little more. And, of course, we’re fiercely patriotic enough to really love it when all this lovely data is commandeered by the Dutch intelligence agency, the AIVD. It’s for our safety and protection! We must unite to safeguard our democracy.

And do we believe the more expensive cards are really anonymous? Do we believe we won’t be suspect if we want one of those? Of course! We believe! All hail the wisdom of our government. They know what’s good for us, and we cannot but bow our heads in admiration for them.

And don’t think you will escape by driving a car: your itinerary will be registered. It is your car, it’s you who is driving it. And just like your car won’t be stolen by terrorists and criminals, so whatever happens is your fault, your OV Card won’t be stolen. And you are your mobile phone. Do not deny it. Be happy, and obey.

Our friends from Uzbekistan, asylum-seekers in the Netherlands, have received the final decision. They are to be evicted from the Netherlands. Despite being husband and wife, they are to be separated. She, a Muslim married to a Christian, is to be sent back to Uzbekistan. He is to be sent to Israel. After many years in the Netherlands.

She’s a paediatrician who has been doing volunteer work in the local hospital. Both have learned Dutch far above the required level; but even having a profession that is scarce in the Netherlands doesn’t mean anything. The targets have to be met, and no matter how bad the decision, how ill it fits the law, they have to go away. Report to the extradition camp in Ter Apel.

Great people, always cheerful, always thoughtful of others, always prepared to help. Our children loved them. I don’t know how to tell the children; I certainly don’t know how I can explain.

I would want our friends to come and live with us, but ‘onderduiken’ doesn’t give any perspective. It’s not a war, when you can expect the occupying force to get beaten out of the country. It’s our own damned government. Our friends would have to hide forever.

European elections 2004

Being Dutch, I voted for the European Parliament yesterday. I thought it rather important to go and vote: the EP can only become a strong and democratic institution if it receives a strong mandate from the voters. And the way to signal that is to go and vote. Fortunately, more than 40% of the Dutch made the effort: up 10%.

Deciding how to cast my vote turned out to be rather difficult. I am a member of one of the smaller Christian parties in the Netherlands, but their MEPs did not vote sensibly in the software patent vote. D66 had an excellent candidate, and I would have liked to vote for her personally, but that would have been a vote for D66, too. And D66 is a government party in the Netherlands, and besides, their party line is pro-software patents. This particular woman should have been a member of another party… So I voted Green Left again, just as with the previous EU elections.

Still, I have not much hope that the EP will become much stronger in the next few years: building up a parliament with clout takes a lot of time. But perhaps the day is not too far off when the president of the EU thinks twice before taking Microsoft’s money to dump a democratic decision by the parliament. And doing it anyway.