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    Posted: 01 July 2001 01:42 AM #16

    Hey Vseward,

    I have a sneaking suspicion that neither of us will get the other to budge. 

    I will point out, however, that it was a free market that made ethernet the de facto standard for networking, and not a government regulatory office.  If the government were to step in with a standards body (speaking of which, we already have a free market standards body in the IEEE), innovation would come to a halt, and new technology would take years to make it to market.

    The government should govern, and not decide what format my word processor is using.

    Again, I don’t expect to sway you, even with my elegant arguments. 

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    Favorite (but less relevant than it used to be) Quote: Microsoft’s tyranny lies not in its success, but in the way it achieved and maintains that success.

         
  • Posted: 01 July 2001 08:01 AM #17

    [[[If the government were to step in with a standards body (speaking of which, we already have a free market standards body in the IEEE), innovation would come to a halt, and new technology would take years to make it to market. ]]]

    Speculative fallacy? Uh huh.

    Also see “Non-sequitur” explanation above in my other post.
    Reference my comments on the “Friedman assumption” above as well.

    Also we must not forget about the “herd mentality” of the consumer market. What’s popular isn’t usually what’s best. Just another fallacy.

    BTW, standards can have revisions and can also be made so advance and move forward.

    Still a point that has yet to be refuted. VSewadr wrote:

    [[[I don’t believe the commercial sector can police itself, the attraction of money is too great. It’s like telling a kid with a sweet tooth to go sit in a candy store but don’t touch anything. ]]]

    That’s exactly right. The market has not been driven by innovation and the rewards and spoils and “earned profit” that come along with it. Rather,  it’s been driven by GREED and opportunity to “cash in” on the easy money making scheme. “Follow the rest of the herd”. VSeward is absolutely right. the attraction of money driven by greed is too great…
    And I’d also like to point out that Gov. sanctioned standards DOES NOT imply counter-productivety and halting innovation. Give me a clear example that it does. Remember to weigh the TRADEOFFS before you comment. And as one engineering friend has taught me, “Everything is about tradeoffs” it’s how well we can balance them that makes the difference.
     
    - Dave K. Every. (http://www.mackido,com)

    Cheers,

    Ed M.

         
  • Posted: 01 July 2001 10:36 AM #18

    Bryan:
    Yeah, I guess you’re right. I will point out that I’m NOT supporting government run standards making, rather government SPONSORED standards. By sponsored I mean that the gov. actively supports whatever standards my dream board comes up with. Ed M. is right, there is no reason that a gov. sponsored body couldn’t work, in fact, it does work everyday in cars, phones, and toaster. I will agree that governments should govern, and I see this as part of governing.

    Ed M.: Thanks for the backup.

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    "If only you could have seen what I’ve seen with your eyes." Roy, Blade Runner

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  • Posted: 01 July 2001 01:54 PM #19

    One issue that seems overlooked in this discussion: can the U.S. government make decisions that “force” other governments and nations to comply? While it the “easy” solution might be for the U.S. government to do anyone of these actions, what about other regions of the world where computer software is developed?

    Just a thought.

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    Posted: 01 July 2001 02:25 PM #20

    I will throw this back to you, VSeward, and ask you to show me a government standards body that does work.  In the US, there has never been a body such as you are describing to my knowledge.  There have been plenty of such bodies in countries with more socialist tendencies.

    There are voluntary bodies out there, the UL and the IEEE for instance, that serve the kind of function you are describing, but they aren’t government sponsored.

    The auto-industry you mentioned are regulated in terms of safety, and minimum standards for things such as gas mileage (though in a very loose way).  There are absolutely no safety issues involved with the computer industry at all.

    So again, show me one that has worked.

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    Favorite (but less relevant than it used to be) Quote: Microsoft’s tyranny lies not in its success, but in the way it achieved and maintains that success.

         
  • Posted: 01 July 2001 02:42 PM #21

    - shades, that’s an excellent question. However, let me point out that other countries have other “standards” already in place for other industries already mentioned. Automobiles, electrical outlets, traffic are but a few. However, as you can see, overall, they integrate fairly easy and change from one to the other isn’t too much of a problem unless you are in a different part of the world every other day. Let me also point out that with software it would be far easier to agree on a particular standard since there really is no “physical” material to alter or manipulate in the strictest sense of the word. Look at it this way, right now, the industry is a birds-nest, a real hassle knowing all the different formats, versions and the like. What this government sponsored standards committee (made up of gov. technology experts and industry leaders of/in that field) will provide is a foundation or “way of doing things”. A type of common approach toward an agreed upon way something should interoperate. It won’t be the cure-all for the industry, but at least in this country it will bring some much needed order to the chaos that abounds. It would be a good start. Before we worry about how the rest of the world will react (like we care now?) we should concentrate in getting something in place first. Now is the time.  Let’s start calling the most notable technology experts to the table from all areas of the industry and sit them down so they can start forging something that will benefit the entire industry.

    Cheers,

    Ed M.

         
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    Posted: 01 July 2001 03:11 PM #22

    I can’t believe I am reading this stuff.  The examples you give are safety related, not technology formats.  There is absolutely no comparison.

    Also, show me a “technology expert” with time to sift through submitted file formats and other submissions to such a body.  Any expert truly deserving the name is too busy doing real work!  The only people that would actually *want* to serve on such a committee are the kinds of people who get off on seeing others bent to their whim. 

    Now, let’s get into the corruption side of things.  Such a body would be so incredible susceptible to corruption, it is not even fathomable.  That corruption would include political as well as monetary pressures.

    I will also now bring into the argument the fact that we have no need of this today!  With Word 2001 for the Mac, I can open just about any document out there, and I can save it in such a way that ANYONE out there can open it. The same is true for AppleWorks, and I would be willing to bet the few remaining big-name word processors out there.  The free market has led us to this condition, not a bunch of talentless bureaucrats.

    Subjugating the talent of the technology industry to the whim of a standards body is the surest way to cripple the computer industry.

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  • Posted: 01 July 2001 03:42 PM #23

    [[[I will throw this back to you, VSeward, and ask you to show me a government standards body that does work.]]]

    Again, before you engage by altering the proposal. I have to say that VSeward DID NOT propose a completely “government-run” standards committee. Instead, he (as did I) proposed that a group of experts made up of representatives from the industry, public sector AND government officials. 

    Quote:

    ” Standards are needed to prevent technology from spawning a plethora of proprietary and incompatible solutions.”


    That makes perfect sense to me, since that’s the exact problem we currently face.

    That being the case, VSeward and Bryan I ask that both of you turn your attention to these URLs (as examples):


    http://www.tsd.org/rsc/APTAORLFINAL.htm

    and also:

    http://libws66.lib.niu.edu/maintext/engtechs.html

    In particular:

    QUOTE
    ” Organized in 1898, ASTM (the American Society for Testing and Materials) is one of the largest voluntary standards development organizations in the world.
    ASTM is a not-for-profit organization that provides a forum for the development and publication of voluntary consensus standards for materials, products, systems and services. More than 32,000 members representing producers, users, ultimate consumers, and representatives of government and academia from over 100 countries develop documents that serve as a basis for manufacturing, procurement, and regulatory activities.
    ASTM develops standard test methods, specifications, practices, guides, classifications, and terminology in 130 areas covering subjects such as metals, paints, plastics, textiles, petroleum, construction, energy, the environment, consumer products, medical services and devices, computerized systems, electronics, and many others. ASTM Headquarters has no technical research or testing facilities; such work is done voluntarily by the ASTM members located throughout the world.
    More than 10,000 ASTM standards are published each year in the 73 volumes of the Annual Book of ASTM Standards. These standards and related technical information are sold throughout the world.”

    Now the kicker… The National Institute of Standards and Technology found here:

    http://www.nist.gov/welcome.html
    http://www.ntis.gov/about/index.html

    *http://www.nist.gov/public_affairs/labs2.htm *

    As an example, I’ll provide a headline:

    A [U.S. government standards body] is close to unveiling an e-book reader for the blind that transforms electronic text into braille. 

    Found here:  http://news.cnet.com/news/0-1005-200-2818707.html

    And guess who that government standards body is?

    Answer: NIST

    It should answer Bryan’s challenge. There are several standards committees that are specifically sponsored by the U.S. Gov.
    Again, of the ones that aren’t “solely” sponsored by gov, many are supported, which in my book lends some credit to the notion.

    Likewise, the following URL can be explored which lists various Gov. sponsored standards boards for finance.

    http://www.kl.com/financial/linklibrary.htm

    Cheers,

    Ed M.

         
  • Posted: 01 July 2001 03:44 PM #24

    On 2001-07-01 17:42, Ed M. wrote:
    Before we worry about how the rest of the world will react (like we care now?) we should concentrate in getting something in place first. Now is the time.  Let’s start calling the most notable technology experts to the table from all areas of the industry and sit them down so they can start forging something that will benefit the entire industry.

    But that is exactly my point. If we are talking standards, that involves the rest of the world. I participate in other boards using a common software in which participants are from Australia, Norway, Sweden, Germany, Japan, Taiwan, Hungary, Rumania, France, Brazil, Great Britain, the Netherlands, etc. So what do tell them? “Just wait until we get it figured out. Then you can join our “standard”?

    To me, the w3c is at least a step in the right direction for the international approach to standards. And that is part of the problem with Microsoft - they do not comply with those standards, well, only when it is convenient/expedient for them. They are like a 500 pound football player who walks onto the field for a pickup game of football. Guess whose rules will be followed. Guess who will change the rules when it fits his need. Guess who will challenge him.

    I certainly don’t have the answers. But I don’t think this is a U. S. issue. It is an international issue.

         
  • Posted: 01 July 2001 03:48 PM #25

    Sorry, guys, for the lack of a name in the above post. I posted without logging in.

    Let’s see I have 9 years of postgraduate education, but can’t log in properly, ... Yeah, iBrotha was right about education.

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  • Posted: 01 July 2001 06:25 PM #26

    Ed M, some comments with regard to your suggestion that NIST take an active role in regulating software/hardware/connectivity standards:

    The original purpose of NIST was to say exactly what a meter, a second, a Joule is. As our control over the minutiae of our world has improved, NIST’s uses have expanded. Above all, the institute has explored new ways of measuring and manipulating the world of the infinitesimal. While it is populated with scientists who are more than qualified to determine the best standards for modern technology, the Institute at large is not. Why? Politics, freedom, economics. Why else?

    If NIST started handing out verdicts on what technologies/formats/standards were fit to survive and which weren’t, then it would enter the business of making some companies blessed and others cursed in the marketplace. Why not let companies sell their products in a fair marketplace and let consumers decide which technologies/formats/standards they want? It’s the best thing for consumers; it’s the fairest thing for businesses. Bryan, back me up here.

    (Incidentally, for the more broadly politically conscious, the above works as a cogent argument against the Federal Govt investing social security money in the stock market. Investing even a small fraction of the money turned over yearly in the SS program (about $300M the last time I checked) would make the US government one of the biggest players in the stock market, and the government’s picks for “safe” stocks would amount to a completely unfair blessing for that equity.)

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  • Posted: 02 July 2001 09:01 AM #27

    Wow.  I appear to have posted into a vacuum.

    Also, show me a “technology expert” with time to sift through submitted file formats and other submissions to such a body.

    This whole line of thought is missing the point completely.

    The government only has to do two things, really: Prevent MS from unfairly levering their existing platform monopoly, and force MS to publish all their file formats.  That requires an oversight committee of some sort, but they don’t have to sort through every possible file format, or anything silly like that.  They just have to keep an eye on Microsoft.  While I’m on the subject, though, there is a standard “file format” (actually a markup language) specified by the government already: SGML.  Both HTML and XML are implemented in SGML, which just happens to be an absurdly powerful language (you can write applications in SGML).  You wouldn’t want to require MS Office to handle SGML in general - that’s like strapping a jet engine to a Subaru - but the government could require that MS use file formats implemented in SGML.  If it’s good enough to describe everything from the Web to every single detail of a fighter jet, it’s good enough to describe a spreadsheet.

    Currently, the import/export capabilities of most programs are buggy and generally lacking, because other companies have to try to figure out Microsoft’s formats.  Even MacLinkPlus, which is dedicated to the task, munges files with distressing frequency in my experience.  If any developer could implement them from a published spec, and if they could compete on a less tilted playing field because MS can’t use their usual strongarm tactics, then the market has some chance of acting something like a free market, and then and only then will arguments about what a free market can accomplish be valid.

    The argument that tech changes too quickly to be effectively regulated is irrelevant.  The government doesn’t have to dictate means, just ends.  They don’t tell Ford how to make a driver survive a 40MPH crash, or how to raise their CAFE by 4 MPG, because technology changes very quickly in the auto world are well.  They can, and do, tell Ford to do whatever is necessary to allow the driver of a Ford to survive a 40MPH crash, and to raise their CAFE by 4 MPG.  Similarly, requiring MS to not “commingle” application code with OS code, requiring it to use standard networking, requiring it to publish file formats, etc. - none of these have anything to do with specific technologies.  Certainly, requiring it to play nice with other companies has nothing whatsoever to do with technology.

     

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    Dystopia, n: A utopia, in practice.

         
  • Posted: 02 July 2001 11:14 AM #28

    Amorph: Absolutely not. There’s more to the governments role than to smack the hand of Microsoft. As I’ve said before, the real problem is not Microsoft, but an environment that fosters Microsoft-like monoplies. (I’m paraphrasing. I think I made an analogy to a hydra.) Hence the standards discussion insued. The lower court can set the ball rolling by forcing MS to adhere to whatever a standards board comes up with, but your suggestion of forcing MS to make public it’s standards only goes part the way needed to ensure they (MS) stay on the up and up.

    A standards board lays the ground work, using MS file formats as a start if needs be, so that every app that produces a file does so independent of the app. MS actually gains in this arrangement since they now can concentrate on features.

    Bryan: As Ed M. said, I don’t support a government operated standards board, rather a board made up of consumers and apps makers that has the blessing of the government such that what the board agrees to becomes a standard within the government (for “normal” use, of course). Every volunteer or inside industry standards board that get government support is an example. UL, Ethernet, 802.11, and many others all enjoy government support and so have or will be highly used public standards.

    The guy who asked about standards outside the States (sorry forgot your name): Being a technology leader has it’s benefits. Other countries can and will adopt whatever a US Standards board comes up with. Even if they don’t, and some won’t, as long as their standard is public then apps makers will just have another file type to worry about. This is hardly different from today except the standards I propose will be freely available.

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    Posted: 02 July 2001 09:46 PM #29

    I am thoroughly enjoying this debate, despite what the “Bah!‘s” and other exclamations may make it seem like.

    I will attack the Hydra analogy again: It does not apply at all.  If you cut the head off of a Hydra, two new ones grow back.  They, plus the old heads, are still controlled by the central body which can direct the actions of all of them.

    If you break MS up into 2-4 companies (I favor 4), then those “heads” now become independent bodies that are not controlled as one.  They do not act together, they do not scheme together, and they don’t even compete with each other.

    I will also again point out that any standards body that is at all attached to a government will, inevitably, be subject to politics.  That is not acceptable.  Mind you, and this is the first time I have said this, I would be all supportive of an industry coalition that attempted to sponsor some kind of standard.  The free market would be free to deal with it as it saw fit, and that’s fine.  Just leave the government out of it.  I will also again point out that there is already a cross platform standard file format, RTF (Rich Text Format). The industry did it all by themselves without any help even! 

    Lastly, I feel strongly that MS is the problem, and this is not an industry that promotes monopolies.  Instead, MS rose to monopoly by happenstance and absurd incompetence on the part of everyone of its competitors.  Take one of the links in that chain of events out, and MS’s monopoly evaporates in a puff of logic.  Logically, the solution is to reset the board and right the wrong that is their monopoly power.  Break them up and leave the Baby Bills free to compete in their respective markets unfettered by the ability to rely on leveraging each others strengths.  If you do that, you will see a wealth of competition rise up from the chaos of that thing we know as “Venture Capital.”

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  • Posted: 02 July 2001 10:15 PM #30

    In my perfect little imaginary world, there would be 2 operating systems that would occupy the bulk of the market, the Macintosh being one of them. In that world, computer giants would learn how to self-regulate without the government, and respect the user’s rights and meet his demands.

    The “other” OS would be developed as a joint effort from giant manufacturers. Its code would be flexible and it could be customized for the machines that would run it. It would also be very user-friendly for the user to run it as he wishes, unlike today’s Windows.

    File format standards, for the sake of convenience, would be adopted by the industry as a whole. In example, Office’s current document formats could very well be the standards for word processing, presentations and spreadsheets, while QuickTime would be the thing for multimedia. Software that would use such formats would simply compete with the other titles for usability and features, or perhaps with its adaptation to its potential customer base.

    The government wouldn’t need to intrude, the industry would simply police itself and stop messing up standards for the sake of one company’s interests.

    It is probably a big utopia, but it sounds like a nice scenario at 1:15 at night.


    Munger