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Australia Government Microsoft Security IT

Australia Mandates Microsoft's Office Open XML 317

littlekorea writes "The Australian Government has released a common operating environment desktop policy that — among security controls aimed at reducing the potential for leaks of Government data — mandates the ECMA-376 version of Microsoft's Office Open XML (OOXML) standard and productivity suites that can 'read and write' the .docx format, effectively locking the country's public servants into using Microsoft Office. The policy [PDF] also appears to limit desktop operating systems to large, off-the-shelf commercial offerings at the expense of smaller distributions."
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Australia Mandates Microsoft's Office Open XML

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    The land down under just went under.

    • by c0lo ( 1497653 ) on Wednesday January 19, 2011 @12:43AM (#34924080)

      The land down under just went underer.


    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I wonder if this is at ends with australian government themselves, given that they're following a standard which is not implemented?

    • by porl ( 932021 )

      i live in a country run by morons.

      • i live in a country run by morons.

        So you live .... on Earth?

  • by msauve ( 701917 ) on Wednesday January 19, 2011 @12:17AM (#34923936)
    all these /. articles about gov't IT and Internet policy in OZ. It's hard to believe they're truly that clueless. (Not that us Yanks are much better off, it's just more centered around "security from terrorists," and ""intellectual property"". - same, only different)
    • by amiga3D ( 567632 ) on Wednesday January 19, 2011 @12:39AM (#34924068)

      They're not clueless. They're very smart. It's just that their priorities aren't your priorities. Their priority is putting money in their pocket. Who do you figure hands out money? It's not the linux geeks I'll tell ya that much. :)

      • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
        Follow the cash flow. This keeps a lot of IT departments in cash and expanding. Running around fixing, converting, working with, upgrading, testing... MS keep the support teams very productive.
        Where where the other US products Australia could have selected from?
        Or Microsoft offered some very unique file tracking options.
        From simple unique identifiers too ??
        From schools to gov to states, to teaching hospitals, MS has been very busy in Australia.
        • There aren't really any office products out there that are better than MS Office. If there were, people wouldn't use MS Office. isn't terrible, but it's still no where near as good as MS Office.

          That's why they settled on an MS "open" (what a crock) standard. It's better, and better usually wins.

          • "Better" is pretty subjective though. There are lots of better text editors, better page layout programs, better structured document systems, etc. MS Word takes a jack-of-all-trades approach that necessarily leads to poor mastery in any particular area. Some people are willing to make the tradeoff to only use a single program, but that's often not the "better" choice. Minivans are by far the most versatile vehicle for many people, but many people dismiss them unless they really need a car that can do it all

    • all these /. articles about gov't IT and Internet policy in OZ. It's hard to believe they're truly that clueless. (Not that us Yanks are much better off, it's just more centered around "security from terrorists," and ""intellectual property"". - same, only different)

      I think most (or all?) aside from this have actually been speculation, rumors or things that have failed pretty epically long before implementation.

    • by mjwx ( 966435 )

      all these /. articles about gov't IT and Internet policy in OZ. It's hard to believe they're truly that clueless.

      Do you think politicians anywhere aren't dumb?

      US govt aso hands out no-bid contracts and sets some rather stupid standards. Same thing with the UK govt, Japanese govt, German govt ad nausium.

      The thing about this standard is that I doubt it will be followed, the Australian Public Service is really a feudal nightmare on multiple levels. The king of IT will always be fighting the King of accounting.

    • Don't worry, I learned from this H.264 guy that this is totally ok, OOXML is free because we are free to pay for it, and it's open because every can see Microsoft implementing it!

    • by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Wednesday January 19, 2011 @04:05AM (#34924942)
      One of the key problems in our government is career politicians get positions that aren't relevant to their history, career, or expertise. Many of them have a degree in getting votes doing things like graduating with a degree in Economics and then going straight into politics. Does this sound like a suitable background for a person making critical decisions on the IT in any government? Well this is our current Communications Minister. At least the opposition's communication minister Malcom Turnbull actually did something to earn his position such as chaired an internet service provider. I'm willing to bet he has more clue than the current buffoon. I'm willling to bet everyone has more of a clue than the current buffoon.

      This happens with many ministers. Such as Penny Wong our former Minister for Climate change, who's only real experience with anything environmental was siding with loggers in the 90s logging debates. She also has a degree in Law and Arts which I'm sure is a lot of help for her current portfolio which includes a huge finance position.
    • by jimicus ( 737525 ) on Wednesday January 19, 2011 @05:24AM (#34925232)

      Let me play devil's advocate for a minute here.

      I'm going to make a number of assumptions. All are what I would consider "reasonable", though obviously they're assumptions so make of them what you will.

      • Government bodies the world over are realising that many of their documents (of which there are thousands) really need to be stored in a standardised format so it's easy to continue to open them in future. The big cheeses at the top are waking up to this not because they've been told (when was the last time you saw someone listen to you that closely?), but because the last time they needed to get their hands on the computerised original of a document that was created ten years ago, there was a problem and it was going to take a long time to fix.
      • Most people (who aren't heavily involved with either the ISO or with IT) are wholly unaware of the corruption surrounding Microsoft getting their document approved as an ISO standard.
      • While we bang on about how Office isn't always compatible with documents created in older versions, for most people that has seldom been a big problem. And even if it has, we're talking about a file format which isn't supported in older versions anyhow so they'd have to upgrade sooner rather than later.
      • Nobody ever got fired for buying ${FLAVOUR_OF_THE_DECADE}.

      So at just about the time that it becomes apparent that some sort of standardised document format is necessary, enter Microsoft stage left, proudly announcing that they've spent a long time working on just that and if they upgrade now, they can have an office suite that uses a standard document format. All they need to do is dictate that every department purchases something that is compatible with OOXML. The issues surrounding OOXML aren't brought up because the big cheeses are unaware that they even exist and the Microsoft sales team certainly aren't going to volunteer such information - in fact, there's a good chance they're not aware of the issues either.

      Where's the salesman for OO.o? Where's the flashy suit, the company car and the briefcase full of numbers showing cost savings? These guys are from a very traditional background, and know little or nothing of the F/OSS world. From their perspective, software is developed by businesses - and what sort of a business can't even be bothered to put together a sales department? If you've ever tried explaining F/OSS to that cousin of yours who runs a business and has always bought Microsoft products - and before you've even got the first couple of sentences out you can see you're getting looks of open disbelief, by the time you've finished your cousin is seriously thinking you need to see a psychiatrist - those are the people who are making the decisions.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 19, 2011 @12:17AM (#34923942)

    iirc, even MS office doesn't use the standard as published ???

    • Their implementation is not even reliable across different versions.

      But then again I'm not really surprised. IE also has problems with some MS-specific aspects of Microsoft's own Javascript dialect, even if you follow the specifications to the letter.

    • by trampel ( 464001 )

      That was my thought as well - there were those stories that not even MS Office supported OOXML completely (that talk about no existing reference implementation).

      I guess Australia will go back to typewriters and ledgers ...

    • To be fair: how is the cross-application support for ODF? Does it really look the same in various word processors? Honest question, not trying to troll here.

      I'm using myself exclusively - no fancy layout or any advanced features though - and it works fine. Only sharing within the office, all identical software.

      But in this situation .doc(x) works fine too, especially when you do not share documents.

      To me it seems that it is still a big problem to standardise and reliably implement a format

      • HTML is not meant to look precisely the same in all clients - by design.

      • If you want true WYSIWYG then you're not talking document format, but typesetting format. The issue with OOXML is that no one has in fact implemented the ECMA standard, what's more it does not appear that anyone other than Microsoft could because it as an absolutely horrible spec, and more to the point despite all of that Microsoft offers no product that adheres to the ECMA spec.

        ODF has some faults, but it is actually a reasonably implementable document format. Whether it's a superior document standard as

    • by makomk ( 752139 ) on Wednesday January 19, 2011 @06:14AM (#34925380) Journal

      They don't use the ISO standard as published, no - which is why Australia has specified the ECMA version. The ECMA version basically just documents what Office 2007 does, warts and all.

  • Urgh.

    Even better, mandated support for .zip as the default compression format. LZMA is so much better, and free too.

    7-zip does have a pretty horrible UI though. I can see why you might want to standardise on WinZip, but still use LZMA compression.

    I also note that Firefox's crap central management support will probably also rule it out of being included in Aussie federal SOEs. Guess it'll be the latest version of IE for the government (again)...

    • by SanityInAnarchy ( 655584 ) <> on Wednesday January 19, 2011 @12:44AM (#34924086) Journal

      The nice thing about .zip is that it is, in fact, supported everywhere, out of the box.

      It's also nice in that it actually supports directory trees. The legacy lzma, and the newer xz, well, don't. I like tar in principle, and I use these formats for all sorts of things that I don't have to share with others, but there are definitely cases where zip is nice -- where it's nice to be able to effectively "mount" a zipfile, "seek" to an appropriate file within it, and read it, without having to decompress the whole thing. This is why zip is used by tons of games, where they might not even be using compression, but they can't trust most filesystems to handle that many small files properly. It's why it's used by both OpenDocument and MS OOXML -- it's the easiest way imaginable to embed multiple files into a single document, including multiple XML files that are compressed well.

      It also depends what your goals are. Zip compresses and decompresses a hell of a lot faster than lzma. These days, I standardize on either lzop for speed or xz for compression ratio, but zip and gzip are nice compromises.

    • Chrome s making some progress on the policy side in windows.
  • by mmj638 ( 905944 ) on Wednesday January 19, 2011 @12:32AM (#34924014)

    Sneaking the word "Open" into this specification was a really dirty trick by Microsoft because

    - it implies that this standard is somewhat "open", and the word "open" has positive connotations
    - it (seemingly deliberately) creates confusion with "Open Office" ie the product, or open source in general.

    I wouldn't be surprised if a number of people were taken in by this, thinking that by making the decision to support OOXML they were somehow contributing to more "openness" in the sense of open government and/or open source.

    • by amiga3D ( 567632 )

      Nothing's similar to calling a tyranical government a "people's" republic.

    • Like calling a windowing operating system "Windows"? Or an office suite "Office"? Or a word processor "Word"? Or a worldwide identity "Passport"? Or a competitor to Java called ".net"? How in the holy shit do you search for ".net"?

      "I want to do [x] in .NET"

      Results: you can do anything at zombo com. Anything at all.

      Fuck their marketing department, it makes it impossible to search for anything relevant until the search engines optimize for their retardedness.

      • dotNET works pretty good. That or the API name or one of the languages (C#, VB.NET, ADO.NET, etc.)
      • How in the holy shit do you search for ".net"?

        god forbid you need help doing something in GIMP.

        • Or the time I was trying to flip a \ding{51} in LaTeX. That was an interesting search.

          (LaTeX is the most interesting language to search for, which is why I use the book so much at work)

      • You search for .net articles by typing ".net" into the search anyone. Every single search engine knows what .net as a word is. You could also search dotnet, or better yet search for how to do what you want in your language of choice because that's the logical thing to do. As for your other complaints... Really? The only thing this shows is your inability to properly utilize a search engine. Every single example you've given can be easily researched.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      MOOXML, aka Microsoft Open Office XML

      Quick! Spread the meme!

  • Typical (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Twigmon ( 1095941 ) on Wednesday January 19, 2011 @12:35AM (#34924044) Homepage

    Unfortunately this seems pretty typical of this government. They like to make policies up on the spot and those policies don't have any thought put into them. We've had stimulus spending that - helped keep the economy going. They didn't actually plan what they were going to spend on though and they never put proper policies in place and we ended up spending way too much on stuff that didn't work.

    I especially like the opt-out section:

    51. This policy is subject to the process for administration of opt-outs from Whole-ofGovernment arrangements.
    52. Initial opt-out considerations will be factored into the transition plan and are expected to
    show how alignment to the policy will be achieved as part of the transition plan. Claims for
    opting out will not be considered during the transition phase.
    53. When seeking an opt-out, an agency will need to include a remediation plan to detail how it
    will return to the WofG COE policy. Opt-outs are limited to a maximum of 3 years, after
    which the original business case will be reassessed to ensure it is still valid.
    54. While it is recognised that agencies may have a need to develop separate SOE images, it is
    expected that these images will comply with the standards set out for the COE to ensure
    that agencies can still share data and services in a seamless manner.

    Whoa shite! Opting out is a massive process and has to be reviewed every 3 years.............

  • Australian government announces that it will officially keep doing what it has done for years.

    aka - use microsoft products. Not sure how this is news, but I guess it gives the /. ers something to complain about.
  • by flyingfsck ( 986395 ) on Wednesday January 19, 2011 @01:39AM (#34924322)
    If they insist on actual compliance with the standard, even MS will be out...
  • I'd like to see some experience from someone small who's tried to support OOXML as standardized by ISO. All this polemic is just that.
    • There is no office product that has read/write support for ECMA-376 (the OOXML spec in the story) yet.

      Office 2010 has read support for it (though what document it could read, I don't know, since nothing writes it yet), and writes the transitional ISO standard. SoftMaker 2010 and both import it, and SoftMaker can output the ISO transitional standard like Office 2010. I don't know if can do that yet.

      Give it another year and all three will likely support it.

      Small software companies don't make o

  • Was Australia not paying attention to the Stuxnet situation? It was a HIGHLY TARGETTED malware designed for the purpose of infiltration of very specific systems. The fact that Windows and office is a highly predictable execution environment guarantees that there will be vectors of attack that Australia will be vulnerable to. And there WILL be people who see this as easily as I do because I'm no genius in these matters. And of course, the empowerment of anonymity combined with the foolishness of youth, t

    • Yes yes Windows has a lot of holes in it, we know. Now think of what you just wrote. Not using Windows doesn't stop attacks like Stuxnet.

      Stuxnet was designed to attack very specific systems; the real target being some embedded computer in a controller. No idea what OS that runs, not Windows I'd guess.

      If someone were to specifically attack a government, they would target that specific system. It's not that if the government chooses Linux, that there will be dozens of versions around. As any large organisat

  • by DeathElk ( 883654 ) on Wednesday January 19, 2011 @01:59AM (#34924416)

    As long as they provide information to the public in an open format such as HTML or PDF, I don't care what they adopt in an SOE.

    The major beef I do have however, is the Windows only tax return software provided by the Australian Taxation Office. The fact that I have to use Windows if I want to file my tax return electronically is totally unacceptable.

    • by Pastis ( 145655 )

      > As long as they provide information to the public in an open
      > format such as HTML or PDF, I don't care what they adopt in an SOE.

      Try filling up a PDF form with open source software and save it. Very practical.Not.

  • This really isn't a drastic change from policy that was already in place within many government agencies in Australia.

    As much as our Amercian cousins here on slashdot lament the stupidity of their representatives they are streets ahead of those who inhabit the parliaments of Australia in terms of their tech savvyness - our mob are truly luddites and assume that M$ are the only competent people in the whole IT industry.

    It's especially true in the national capital... it's one of the few places in the country

  • by blarkon ( 1712194 ) on Wednesday January 19, 2011 @03:37AM (#34924796)
    Built into Windows Server 2003 R2, Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 R2 is a role called "Active Directory Rights Management Services". It allows authors to control what can be done with documents. You can stop cutting, pasting, forwarding, editing, the whole shebang. Office 2007 and 2010 follow the rules set down in the rights templates. So does the operating system.

    After Wikileaks, governments are going to be all about rights management protection for documents. RMS stops people opening sensitive documents that they've copied to a USB stick.

    Open / Libre Office doesn't have this functionality (and because of the Open Source movement's philosophical objection to rights management technologies probably will never have this functionality).

    The recent wikileaks saga has been a big wake up call to business and government - because they want to do their best to make sure that their information isn't plastered all over the Internet. Office 2007 / 2010 support this out of the box (just that few people use it). Open / Libre Office won't support it in a million years because "DRMs is Teh Evil"

Thufir's a Harkonnen now.