accessible

ODF compared & constrasted with OOXML

From Sam Hiser’s “Achieving Openness: A Closer Look at ODF and OOXML” (ONLamp.com: 14 June 2007):

An open, XML-based standard for displaying and storing data files (text documents, spreadsheets, and presentations) offers a new and promising approach to data storage and document exchange among office applications. A comparison of the two XML-based formats–OpenDocument Format (“ODF”) and Office Open XML (“OOXML”)–across widely accepted “openness” criteria has revealed substantial differences, including the following:

  • ODF is developed and maintained in an open, multi-vendor, multi-stakeholder process that protects against control by a single organization. OOXML is less open in its development and maintenance, despite being submitted to a formal standards body, because control of the standard ultimately rests with one organization.
  • ODF is the only openly available standard, published fully in a document that is freely available and easy to comprehend. This openness is reflected in the number of competing applications in which ODF is already implemented. Unlike ODF, OOXML’s complexity, extraordinary length, technical omissions, and single-vendor dependencies combine to make alternative implementation unattractive as well as legally and practically impossible.
  • ODF is the only format unencumbered by intellectual property rights (IPR) restrictions on its use in other software, as certified by the Software Freedom Law Center. Conversely, many elements designed into the OOXML formats but left undefined in the OOXML specification require behaviors upon document files that only Microsoft Office applications can provide. This makes data inaccessible and breaks work group productivity whenever alternative software is used.
  • ODF offers interoperability with ODF-compliant applications on most of the common operating system platforms. OOXML is designed to operate fully within the Microsoft environment only. Though it will work elegantly across the many products in the Microsoft catalog, OOXML ignores accepted standards and best practices regarding its use of XML.

Overall, a comparison of both formats reveals significant differences in their levels of openness. While ODF is revealed as sufficiently open across all four key criteria, OOXML shows relative weakness in each criteria and offers fundamental flaws that undermine its candidacy as a global standard.

Offline copy protection in games

From Adam Swiderski’s “A History of Copy Protection” (Edge: 9 June 2008):

Fortunately, the games industry is creative, and thus it was that the offline copy protection was born and flourished. One of its most prevalent forms was an in-game quiz that would require gamers to refer to the manual for specific information – you’d be asked, for example, to enter the third word in the fourth paragraph on page 14. Some titles took a punishing approach to this little Q & A: SSI’s Star Command required a documentation check prior to each in-game save, while Master of Orion would respond to a failed manual check by gradually becoming so difficult that it was impossible to win. Perhaps the most notorious example of this method is Sierra’s King’s Quest III, in which lengthy passages of potion recipes and other information had to be reproduced from the manual. One typo, and you were greeted with a “Game Over” screen.

Other developers eschewed straight manual checks for in-box tools and items that were more integrated into the games with which they shipped, especially once photocopiers became more accessible and allowed would-be pirates to quickly and easily duplicate documentation. LucasArts made a name for itself in this field, utilizing such gems as the Monkey Island series’ multi-level code wheels. Other games, like Maniac Mansion and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade shipped with the kind of color-masked text one would find in old-school decoder rings; the documents could not be reproduced by the photocopiers of the day and would require the application of a transparent red plastic filter in order to get at their contents.

Still accessible after 1000 years

From BBC News:

In fact, it turns out that images stored electronically just 15 years ago are already becoming difficult to access. The Domesday Project, a multimedia archive of British life in 1986 designed as a digital counterpart to the original Domesday Book compiled by monks in 1086, was stored on laser discs.

The equipment needed to view the images on these discs is already very rare, yet the Domesday book, written on paper, is still accessible more than 1,000 years after it was produced.