Just in time to save our rights
Cory Doctorow recently wrote this article. It is a bit of a scary read. Microsoft has been trying to prevent the world from reading and writing their documents for years now. In fact, maybe I could even say "decades" (!). The scary part, is that this time it looks like they are just about to manage.
Trusted computing has been slipping into our motherboards for quite a while. A lot of us felt that something nasty - really nasty - would eventually happen. File formats, and the ability to lock people in, is absolutely crucial to Microsoft. Now... here we are. some nasty could indeed be about to happen.
What can we say? I think the answer is "thank God for Linux, GNU, and free software in general".
I honestly think that if Linux had gained its momentum even a couple of years later than it did, we (as in, the people who don't want to pay the Microsoft Tax) would be in a much worse position right now. Microsoft would have been able to force their formats - and their "trusted ways" into our lives much, much more easily.
Today we have a choice: we can use OpenOffice, and use ODF. Governments are saying "no" to lock-in formats. Documents that lock their owners out will hopefully will become a feature for few, niche markets.
Microsoft was late, and yet they are fighting. Fighting back will take effort. Luckily, there is much we can do. For example, we can convert our friends and family to OpenOffice, Linux, and free software in general. There are many, many free software users in the world right now and it's very hard for anybody to ignore us. The next step, is to make our crowd even bigger, so that it becomes impossible to ignore us.
If you think about it, we just want to be free to open our own documents with any program we like, and without anybody telling us that our own documents are locked because we didn't pay some private company in order to use their piece of software.
It seems to be such a basic request, it even amazes me that we need to fight for it.