CyberTech Rambler

May 20, 2008

What is a year or a month?

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 11:32 am

We all know about the Lotus calendar bug, which removed a day from 1900. It was a arguably good compromise to simplify date calculation in Lotus 123 back in the days where you literally have to count the bytes in your computation. Playing catch up, Microsoft emulated this. This decision, to me, was correct. What i have beef with is the perpetuation of this error into OOXML, which I believe is wrong since 1900 is no longer a year that most computers are unlikely to use and it is about time to correct this problem. The inclusion of this in OOXML led me to call it the Microsoft calendar instead of the Lotus calendar.

When David Wheeler first presented his argument on YEARFRAG problem in Excel. I was puzzled. First, while Wheeler is a supporter of ODF, he had never had a post dishing the dirt on OOXML. Why now? Second, why did OpenDocument committee withheld this information in the first place? I know people on OpenDocument committee does not like their counterparts in ECMA OOXML committee. Ethically, however, I think they should disclose this when OOXML was push through ISO, or “forever hold their tongue” (in criticizing OOXML, not revealing it.) And finally, why did we have some many different definitions of years?

All these questions were answered in Rob Weir’s post. David Wheeler is the chair on OpenDocument Formula committee and was tasked to do so. The question were indeed raised in OOXML passage through ISO. Given this two pieces of information, it is my opinion that Wheeler was waiting for the final OOXML specification in the hope that this is clarified, and do his final testing before revealing this in public. (This is something an ethical person should do and I salute him for doing so). There goes my conspiracy theory ;-(

As for the last question, why so many different definitions of years? I did exercise my little grey cells and though it must be something to do with simplifying date calculation in the days where computers were not even dream off yet. Weir confirmed this. Since like the “Microsoft Calendar”, it is not grounded in Astronomy observation, one can define it however one like. Most were probably adopted before international commerce is as busy and commonplace as it was today. That is why we have so many standards.

The mere existence of artificial month/year calculation is a revelation to me. A good one, as it improve my understanding of how things work, not diminish it.

I am actually surprised that the OOXML camp did not raise this as part of the reason why the “Microsoft Calendar” is not the only modification to the calendaring system because there are other systems, such as these in use, when the net was buzzing that Microsoft cheat us of a day. That would had been an interesting discussion point to say the least. It would, to me at least, lessen the charge that Microsoft is developing its own calendaring system.

Perhaps it was only to be expected. The two main pro OOXML bloggers that are worth tracking, Brian Jones and Jason Mathusow, went incredibly silent soon after the OOXML became ISO standard. This confirms to me that those blogs are “professional PR machines”. Although it is valuable as an information source in the debate, the bloggers themselves are simply doing it because it is their job, not because they are passionate in the topic. I am not stupid to believe that the number of postings on blogs dedicated to OOXML/ODF debate will not slow to a trickle post OOXML passage through ISO, especially since we see hive of activities on all OOXML/ODF blogs closer to important dates than other time during the year, but complete silent? Not even a post saying some nobody-knows-who company adopting OOXML? Look at the other side, OpenMalaysia blog, Weir’s blog, Sutor’s blog, Wheeler’s blog and Groklaw still have news about OOXML/ODF, and Alex Brown had started blogging about OOXML/ODF now (As convener of OOXML BRM, he is ethically bound to silent until the process is completed.) Who has the passion?

Hopefully the critic on this problem will breath some life into Jones’s and Matusow’s blog.


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