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Last modified: July 05, 2007
XML Daily Newslink. Thursday, 05 July 2007

A Cover Pages Publication
Provided by OASIS and Sponsor Members
Edited by Robin Cover

This issue of XML Daily Newslink is sponsored by:
Sun Microsystems, Inc.

Denmark to Test Open XML, ODF Next Year
Jeremy Kirk, InfoWorld

Denmark's government agencies will be required to handle two competing document format standards, the Open Document Format (ODF) and Microsoft's Open XML, during a one-year test period that will begin next year. Denmark is requiring both standards for the test period since neither are "fully mature," said Rachid El Mousti, senior adviser for the IT strategy division of Denmark's National IT and Telecom Agency. A third party will evaluate the results of the tests in the first half of 2009, after which the Danish Parliament will conduct a further assessment. The government is also requiring that new products bought by the agencies be able to accommodate at least one of the standards. It is also studying how its agencies exchange documents, including their use of converters to change document formats. Denmark could decide to use one standard, both, or neither of them, depending on market developments. Government backing for document formats is seen as significant because it could help promote wider use of the standards in the market. If governments mandate the use of ODF, it could help office suites such as, which use the standard, to compete more effectively with Microsoft's dominant Office suite. El Mousti said Denmark has felt pressure from supporters of both ODF and Open XML, which was created by Microsoft and is used in Office 2007. Denmark has maintained an open dialog with all vendors. [Note from the text of the PR "Important Political Progress for Open Standards"—"Following prolonged negotiations, Helge Sander, Minister for Science, Technology and Innovation, has launched a timetable for the future use of open standards, together with the IT spokesmen of the Danish Parliament (the Folketing)... The timetable aims to ensure that the introduction of open standards will be of benefit to society as a whole, and that the individual authority will not experience increased IT costs as a result of the new mandatory standards... Based on the reports subjected to public consultation and debates during the past year, seven sets of standards will be mandatory from 1 January 2008. With regard to standards for document interchange, the timetable states that two standards will be mandatory for an initial test period of one year from 1 January 2008. During the test period, public authorities must be able to receive both standards, known as ODF and OOXML, and new procurements must be able to handle at least one of the two standards. The test period will be evaluated during the first half of 2009 by a third party in preparation for a new assessment by the Folketing..."]

See also: the PR

Squaring Off: ODF and Open Office XML
Joab Jackson, Government Computer News

Unlike using pen and paper, using computer software to craft a government document makes an assumption about the software needed to view that document. And many feel government should not be making this assumption. Thus far, there are two standards for formats that purportedly tackle this problem, at least for office documents. When you write documents in either of these formats, they are saved in plain ASCII text with the human-readable Extensible Markup Language specifying the look and feel of the documents. Rendering documents this way ensures (in theory anyway) that they can be read even when the software that created them is not available. One of these formats is the Open Document Format for Office Applications (ODF). It was created by vendors and volunteers under the auspices of the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards and is supported by a variety of comparatively little-used office productivity suites, most notably the open-source Open Office. The other format is Microsoft's more newly defined Office Open XML (OOXML), which (in all likelihood) only will be used within Microsoft's Office productivity suite as the default format for saving documents. Even in a field known for hype and rhetoric, the debate between proponents of ODF and OOXML is heated, despite—or maybe because of—the minimal differences between them. "When it comes to issues of long preservation, there is not much of a difference," said Laurent Lachal, senior analyst in charge of open-source research at Ovum... There are differences between ODF and OOXML, but advocates on both side of the debate usually admit the differences are not essential, at least not when it comes to interoperability and data preservation. People in the ODF camp certainly have plenty to say about the shortcomings of OOXML. In a white paper posted last month, Sam Hiser, founder of the OpenDocument Foundation, noted several areas where OOXML fell short. For instance, Hiser said that even though Ecma oversees OOXML, Microsoft retains control over the standard. This means that no changes can be made without Microsoft's buy-in.

Weaving the Semantic Web
Michael V. Copeland, Business 2.0

Nova Spivack, dotcom pioneer and grandson of Peter Drucker, is racing to bring meaning and order to the chaos of the Internet. And he's not alone. If you think of the World Wide Web as a cloud of largely undifferentiated information, the mission of the company he's about to unveil, Radar Networks, is to take that cloud and impose order on it. Not just any order, but a very special kind known to experts by one of the hottest buzzwords in computer science today: the semantic Web. One estimate pegs the market for products and services stemming from semantic Web technologies at $50 billion by 2010, up from about $7 billion today. But for all the entrepreneurs ready to spin gold out of the semantic Web, there are as many skeptics convinced that it's a pipe dream—a fancy name for a problem that will never be fully solved. Spivack, with the confidence of a man who has been to space without a safety net, is determined to prove them wrong. Radar Networks is housed in a renovated warehouse not far from the ballpark where the San Francisco Giants play. Inside, massive redwood timbers span the high ceilings alongside thick clusters of data cable. A Nintendo Wii and a shiny new De'Longhi espresso machine are the only outward signs of anything being done here but mind-bending work. There are 20 people at the company now, but there's space for 50, and with just a bit less than $10 million in venture funding, Spivack and his senior executives are busy hiring. The background of the Radar team includes deep expertise in statistics, bioinformatics, and artificial intelligence. Radar's chief architect, Jim Wissner, is a Java ace. Chris Jones, director of products and operations, is a design and user interface whiz. CTO Lew Tucker got his start by mapping neural transmitters in the brain. Tucker and Spivack go back to the late '80s, when they both worked for Danny Hillis at Thinking Machines.

See also: W3C Semantic Web

2007 Semantic Web Challenge
Jennifer Golbeck, O'Reilly Blog

"The central idea of the Semantic Web is to extend the current human-readable web by encoding some of the semantics of resources in a machine-processable form. Moving beyond syntax opens the door to more advanced applications and functionality on the Web. The Semantic Web Challenge offers participants the chance to show the best of the Semantic Web. This year, I am one of the co-Chairs of the 2007 Semantic Web Challenge. We invite submissions to the fifth annual Semantic Web Challenge, the premiere event for demonstrating practical progress towards achieving the vision of the Semantic Web. The Semantic Web Challenge 2007 is organized in conjunction with the Sixth International Semantic Web Conference, which will take place November 11-15, 2007, in Busan, Korea. participants should provide standards-compliant web interfaces to the data and services provided by their applications. For example, these could take the form of RSS feeds, SPARQL endpoints, REST or Web Services interfaces. The core technological building blocks for the Semantic Web are now in place and widely available: ontology languages, flexible storage and querying facilities, protocols, reasoning engines, etc. Guidelines for best practice are being formulated and disseminated by the W3C. The next challenge is to show off the benefits of semantic technologies by developing integrated, easy to use applications that can provide new levels of Web functionality for end users on the Web or within enterprise settings. Applications submitted should demonstrate clear practical value that goes above and beyond what is possible with conventional web technologies alone.

See also: the web site

Sun ODF Plugin 1.0 for Microsoft Office Available as a Free Download
Staff, Sun Microsystems Announcement

Microsoft Office users can now import and export to Open Document Format (ODF). The Sun ODF Plug in for Microsoft Office gives users of Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint the ability to read, edit and save to the ISO-standard Open Document Format. The ODF Plug in is available as a free download from the Sun Download Center (SDLC). The Plug in is easy to setup and use, the conversion happens transparently and the additional memory footprint is minimal. Microsoft Office users now can have seamless two-way conversion of Microsoft Office documents to and from Open Document. The ODF Plug in runs on Microsoft Windows and is available in English. More language support will be available in later releases. Download for the "Sun ODF Plugin 1.0 for Microsoft Office Installation Set, English" is 30.33 MB, "odp-1.0-bin-windows-en-US.exe". From the "Sun ODF Plugin for Microsoft Office" README document: "This file contains important information about the plugin... This software offered by Sun Microsystems will enhance several versions of Microsoft Office; see System Requirements. Requirements: Microsoft Windows 98, ME, 2000 (Service Pack 2 or higher), or XP; Microsoft Office 2000, Office XP, Office 2003, or the equivalent standalone version of Word; Pentium compatible PC; 256 MB RAM - 512 MB RAM recommended; 45 MB available hard disk space." A summary is provided in the Craig Morris (Heise Online) blog under the title "Sun's OpenDocument Filter for MS Office is Finished" - "Sun has released its import/export filter for the OpenDocument format (ODF), which the ISO has recognized as a standard, for versions 2000, XP, and 2003 of Microsoft's Office suite... The extension allows users of MS Office to read and create text documents, spreadsheets, and presentations in the free OpenOffice suite and its commercial version called StarOffice. The 30 MB installation package adds a document type to Word's file dialog so that users can access ODF files directly and use OpenDocument as a standard format. This option is not yet available in Excel and PowerPoint, where the add-ins appear as new entries in the File menu and as a new icon in the taskbar. The competitor project that Microsoft and Novell are conducting with the same aim is also making progress. The OpenXML/ODF Translator Add-On for Office can also read and write texts, tables, and presentations, but the add-ins for Excel and PowerPoint are still in the early stages of development with versions 0.2 and 0.1, respectively..."

See also: Heise Online

Linspire to Help Create Open Source Translators for ODF and Open XML
Staff, Linspire Announcement

Linspire, Inc., developer of the Linspire commercial and Freespire community desktop Linux operating systems, has announced it will join the current efforts to improve the ability of users to work with the Office Open XML format by increasing the interoperability between ODF and Open XML. Linspire is joining with others who have signed on to this effort, including Novell and Xandros, to create bi-directional open source translators for word processing, spreadsheets and presentations between ODF and Open XML. All future releases of Linspire and Freespire will include the bi-directional translators between ODF and Open XML. As a result, end users of Microsoft Office and will be able to more easily share files, as documents will better maintain consistent formats, formulas and style templates across the two office productivity suites... The Open XML format is an open standard file format for office applications that can be freely implemented by multiple applications on multiple platforms. The Open XML format was standardized by Ecma International on December 7, 2006 and is also being implemented by multiple applications on multiple platforms. It is now under consideration for ratification by ISO/IEC JTC1. Open XML is the default format for the recently released Microsoft Office 2007. The Open XML format is also available through free updates to past Microsoft Office versions... With an estimated 100 million users, is a full-featured, open source office productivity suite with word processing, spreadsheet, presentation and database applications. currently supports the OpenDocument (ODF) file format, which is an ISO-standardized, XML-based file format specification for office applications maintained by the open source community. The OpenDocument format ensures information saved in spreadsheets, documents and presentations is freely accessible to any OpenDocument-supporting application.

See also: ODF references

What is an ISO 8601 Date?
Rick Jelliffe, O'Reilly Technical

When you see a data field with text like 2007-07-05 you are probably looking at a date in ISO 8601 date format. Year, month, day: YYYY-MM-DD. IS 8601 is in an international standard which gives several standard syntaxes for representing Gregorian dates and times. The full English title is "ISO 8601:2004 Data elements and interchange formats -- Information interchange—Representation of dates and times." It is only about 33 pages long; you can purchase it from your local standards body or from ISO, and as is common practice for ISO standards, there are final drafts available for free on the Internet. ODF and Open XML both use ISO 8601 dates in the YYYY-MM-DD form throughout for all dates. ODF has quite a nice, basic and consistent approach to dates in spreadsheets: read and store them in a kind of ISO 8601 format but also allow a 'null date' (such as 1899-12-31) to be specified to allow conversions of date into numbers. Spreadsheets very often actually store, manipulate or transfer dates as ordinal values from an index point: this makes calculations with dates very straightforwards. Representing dates as ordinals is also used in other ISO standards: for example, the SQL_DATE data type gives the number of days since January 1, 1841. The draft specification for ISO Open XML, from Ecma, does have one oddity, which has attracted much controversy. In SpreadsheetML table cells only, dates are actually saved as durations, as ordinals. The base is set by an attribute on the workbook, and reflects the supported ranges of Excel on different platforms. In my blog last month on Principles for reviewing standards, I took the position, which I think is the most reasonable one, that for embedded data fields the standard forms should be provided and optimized forms may be provided. From that POV, Open XML should also allow ISO 8601 durations and/or dates as well as the simple duration ordinal. And ODF should allow duration ordinals as a matter of best practice.

British Library: Office OpenXML
Adam Farquhar, British Library Presentation

Office OpenXML is an open standard for word-processing documents, presentations, and spreadsheets. It supports High Fidelity Migration from legacy Microsoft binary formats: (a) Faithfully represent in XML the pre-existing corpus of word-processing, presentations and spreadsheets documents (b) for Millions of users created billions of documents over the past 20 years. Its goals are Interoperability, Platform independence, Internationalization, Accessibility; it has undergone extensive review and modifications during the standardization process. Office OpenXML will enable new range of applications for Integration with business data with a clear definition of conformance; it supports Custom XML Schemas (e.g. Birth Certificate, HL7). [Another goal is] Long-term preservation: Full specification, no application or system dependencies, clear path for migration, future evolution/ maintenance in Ecma and ISO... OpenXML Markup approach: Very different markup approach from ODF and HTML. Flatter structure, Local edits result in local changes. Basis for text is a run: A run is contiguous text with identical properties...

See also: Open XML Developer Group

Extending and Versioning Languages: Terminology, XML Languages, Strategies
David Orchard (ed), W3C Draft TAG Findings

All three TAG versioning finding documents have been updated to reflect recent F2F discussions in the W3C Technical Architecture Group, according to a memo from Dave Orchard. The "Terminology" document provides terminology for discussing language versioning, while separate documents contains versioning strategies and XML language specific discussion. The "XML Languages" document describes XML based terminology, technologies and versioning strategies. It provides XML Schema examples for each of the strategies and discussion about various schema design patterns. A number of XML languages, including XHTML and Atom, are used as case studies in different strategies. Extracts: "The evolution of languages by adding, deleting, or changing syntax or semantics is called versioning. Making versioning work in practice is one of the most difficult problems in computing. Arguably, the Web rose dramatically in popularity because HTML and HTTP provide effective support for extensibility and versioning. Both systems provide explicit extensibility points and rules for understanding extensions that enable their decentralized extension and versioning. Versioning is an issue that effects almost all applications eventually. Whether it is a processor styling documents in batches to produce PDF files, Web services engaged in financial transactions, HTML browsers, the language and instances will likely change over time. The versioning policies for a language, particularly whether the language is mutable or immutable, should be specified by the language owner. Versioning is closely related to extensibility as extensible languages may allow instances that are allowed the language but the terms are not defined by the language. As languages evolve, it is possible to speak of backwards and forwards compatibility. A language change is backwards compatible if consumers of the revised language can correctly process all instances of the unrevised language. Backwards compatibility means that a newer version of a consumer can be rolled out in a way that does not break existing producers. A producer can send a text per the unrevised version of a language to a consumer that understands the revised language and still have the text successfully processed. A software example is a word processor at version 5 being able to read and process version 4 documents. A schema example is a schema at version 5 being able to validate version 4 documents. In the case of Web services, this means that new Web services consumers, ones designed for the new version, will be able to process all messages in the old language. A language change is forwards compatible if consumers of the unrevised language can correctly process all instances of the revised language. Forwards compatibility means that a newer version of a producer can be deployed in a way that does not break existing consumers... A number of questions, design patterns and rules are discussed with a focus towards enabling versioning in XML vocabularies, making use of XML Namespaces and XML Schema constructs. This includes not only general rules, but also rules for working with languages that provide an extensible container model, such as SOAP and RDF/OWL..."

See also: XML Languages


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