Tech Insider					     Technology and Trends

Ban MS-Word 
Michael Halcrow 
Wed, 20 Feb 2002 09:53:36 -0800 

As the Daily Universe is amateur journalism, the more outrageous,
incendiary, and controversial the letters (within good taste, most of the
time), the more likely they are to get published. So I will keep the
Linux-vs.-Microsoft tone. If this letter inspires 10 CS/EE freshmen to
give Linux a try, I will count it a success. If OIT actually bans MS-Word
from network communications, I will recant all I've ever flamed them.

This is the version that I will send tomorrow. I took the liberty of
signing it "The BYU Unix User's Group". If the powers-that-be object,
please let me know, and I will only sign the names of those who wish to be
on there. I included the location information that is printed in the BYU
directory; let me know if any of that information is incorrect or
outdated.

If you do not agree with the content of the letter in its current form,
please inform me so I can make corrections. I will see about getting it in
the Daily Universe for next Tuesday or Thursday.

---
Ban MS-Word Docs

Many who try to post their resume's on the "Career Resource Services"
section of Route-Y are disappointed to find out that the system will not
accept their resume's unless they are in Microsoft Word format. This is a
problem on BYU campus that needs to be addressed, as it seems to only be
getting worse.

Many professors (including some who should certainly know better) post
Microsoft Word files on class web sites, without respect to open and free
standards in computer communications. We do not use Microsoft-approved
operating systems. Thus Microsoft does not facilitate the development of
any software to correctly create or view Word documents on our computers.
Any time we want to properly read a Word document from one of our class
web sites, many of us have no option but to drop what we are doing, run
on-campus, go to an Access Point lab, and wait in line.

While we see no problem with people using the Word document format for
their own personal work, we ask that they do not attempt to coerce us into
buying the closed and proprietary Microsoft Word wordprocessor and Windows
operating system. They do this by requiring us to submit Word documents to
access services. They also do this by posting or sending us files that we
cannot correctly read without Word and Windows. The same goes with
WordPerfect files.

Asking us to do all our work in the Access Point labs which are equipped
with this software is akin to asking us to throw our computers out the
window, as at that point they becomes practically useless. This is
unfortunate, as computers can perform web browsing, email, word
processing, and other such activites while running operating systems other
than Microsoft Windows.

Many of these operating systems, such as Linux, are technically superior
and are free. There are many students who would appreciate not being
constantly forced to shell out hundreds of dollars in a perpetual upgrade
cycle for a bloated operating system and a word processor. After each
"upgrade," they find themselves pressured to buy a more powerful computer
to keep from bogging down under the increased load. While Microsoft,
Intel, the BYU bookstore, and the credit card companies might not
complain, we need to consider the burdens that students bear to keep this
cycle going.

The solution is simple, as Linux runs wonderfully on both older and newer
machines. Students who opt to use free alternatives to Microsoft products
should not be punished and segregated by their professors and by most BYU
departments who use closed and proprietary file formats on their web sites
and in email attachments.

Please respect open standards and send digital communications in
non-proprietary formats such as RTF (for documents that need to be edited
and that contain formatting), TXT (for email messages, memo's, and text
that does not need any formatting), or PDF (for documents that are only
meant to be viewed and/or printed). Software that can read and write these
file formats is free and widely available. In light of computing platform
diversity in a heterogeneous network environment, BYU should ban all
Microsoft Word and WordPerfect documents from class web sites, email
attachments, and other areas where information is exchanged and
distributed digitally.

The BYU Unix User's Group

Michael Halcrow
Lancaster, CA

Stuart Jansen
Lovelock, NV

Andy Bradford
Provo, UT

Steve Meyers
Provo, UT

Phillip Lee Hellewell
Idaho Falls, ID

Arthur Moore
Provo, UT

Jon Dehdari
Flower Mound, TX

Brent Thomson
Provo, UT

Rogelio Flores
Juarez, Mexico

Gary Thornock
Provo UT

Hans Fugal
Pleasant Grove, UT

---------------------------------------------- | ------------------------
Michael Halcrow                                | [EMAIL PROTECTED]
Research Assistant, Network Security Lab       | Dept. of Comp. Science
                                               | Brigham Young University
If you don't want my koalas, baby, don't shake |
my eucalyptus tree.                            |
---------------------------------------------- | ------------------------

Re: Ban MS-Word 
Bradley Ross 
Wed, 20 Feb 2002 10:45:44 -0800 

> If OIT actually bans MS-Word
> from network communications, I will recant all I've ever flamed them.

Yeah, that'd be freedom.

If I was editing this letter to fit the normal length requirements for a
letter to the editor, I would probably only print the first and last
paragraph. Your only chance of getting the entire letter published is to
have it published as a Viewpoint article. Maybe you should submit your
picture along with the article to encourage them to publish the whole thing
that way.

> Ban MS-Word Docs
[...]
> Many who try to post their resume's on the "Career Resource Services"

This is your best point! It shows a universally available web resource that
required a specific platform to operate, which violates the purpose of using
the web in the first place.

> We do not use Microsoft-approved
> operating systems.

Perhaps if you said "Windows or Macintosh operating systems" it would be
clearer to the average reader what you mean. I know you are going for the
controversial tone, but you lose something in clarity.

> web sites, many of us have no option but to drop what we are doing, run
> on-campus, go to an Access Point lab, and wait in line.

I would work this line somewhere close to the first or last paragraph to be
sure it makes the cut for a letter.

> After each
> "upgrade," they find themselves pressured to buy a more powerful computer
> to keep from bogging down under the increased load.

Would it be better to try to run everything on a 286? What is wrong with
progress? I love to see software become more intuitive and easier to use. I
realize there is power to be had in obscure interfaces, but smarter
computers take more processing power and more space. You risk turning people
off to your primary argument (which I agree with) by pushing this secondary
argument (which I disagree with.)

> Please respect open standards and send digital communications in
> non-proprietary formats such as RTF (for documents that need to be edited
> and that contain formatting), TXT (for email messages, memo's, and text
> that does not need any formatting), or PDF (for documents that are only
> meant to be viewed and/or printed). Software that can read and write these
> file formats is free and widely available.

Perhaps you could emphasize that Word will easily use rtf so that people can
use their existing software. Perhaps you should also add HTML to the list,
since people understand this format already as a universal format.

Bradley Ross

Re: Ban MS-Word 
Michael Halcrow 
Wed, 20 Feb 2002 11:50:42 -0800 

Ah! It's refreshing to get some good criticism and suggestions for my
letter. This is what I've been looking for. After all, many heads are
better than one.

> If I was editing this letter to fit the normal length requirements for a
> letter to the editor, I would probably only print the first and last
> paragraph.

I'll take that as a compliment of my writing ability.  :-P

> Your only chance of getting the entire letter published is to
> have it published as a Viewpoint article. Maybe you should submit your
> picture along with the article to encourage them to publish the whole thing
> that way.

I think I'll have a chat with someone on the 5th floor.

> Perhaps if you said "Windows or Macintosh operating systems" it would be
> clearer to the average reader what you mean. I know you are going for the
> controversial tone, but you lose something in clarity.

Considering the intended audience, I like that idea.

> > After each
> > "upgrade," they find themselves pressured to buy a more powerful computer
> > to keep from bogging down under the increased load.
>
> Would it be better to try to run everything on a 286? What is wrong with
> progress? I love to see software become more intuitive and easier to use. I
> realize there is power to be had in obscure interfaces, but smarter
> computers take more processing power and more space. You risk turning people
> off to your primary argument (which I agree with) by pushing this secondary
> argument (which I disagree with.)

My point on the upgrade cycle is closely related to my argument, but it
does stand in danger of being tangential. This is a complex argument that
deserves a much greater level of treatment than I can give in the article.
Maybe it will spark some debates among the business majors and the
economists :-)

The economist in me agrees that making newer and faster hardware is good,
as it creates jobs. But what is the cost of these jobs? Does it have the
"orange farmer" effect, where a small group of jobs are artificially
created and/or preserved at the expense of the health of the economy as a
whole? I take issue with how Microsoft and Intel implicitely scratch each
other's backs to artificially accelerate the process of hardware becoming
obsolete. What occurs is a market-wide pressure to upgrade to the latest
operating system that provides very little new functionality at great cost
to the consumer, simply because the consumer doesn't really know any
better. Vast resources are spent worldwide for the new operating system
and the new computing equipment to handle the bloat, the recipients'
productivity really doesn't change, and the only ones who benefit are
Microsoft and Intel (aside from the consumer's perceived benefit). The
whole system just doesn't seem to have the trait of synergism that free
exchange in a capital market should have. Well, I suppose that *I* benefit
because I get 2GHz processors and 160gig drives, which I value more than
Joe Six-pack computer user who buys them just so he can run Windows/Office
XP. And since I'm a CE major, I like seeing the jobs artificially created.
So maybe this argument shoots all of us in the collective foot. Maybe I
*should* like Microsoft.

Whoa, whoa, whoa! Any argument that ends *that* way has some problems...
I'm going to leave this debate for another forum.

> > Please respect open standards and send digital communications in
> > non-proprietary formats such as RTF (for documents that need to be edited
> > and that contain formatting), TXT (for email messages, memo's, and text
> > that does not need any formatting), or PDF (for documents that are only
> > meant to be viewed and/or printed). Software that can read and write these
> > file formats is free and widely available.
>
> Perhaps you could emphasize that Word will easily use rtf so that people can
> use their existing software. Perhaps you should also add HTML to the list,
> since people understand this format already as a universal format.

I specifically left that out, becuase although Microsoft failed in their
trying to assimilate Java (there are a mega-corporation ready to jump in
with a lawsuit to protect their standard), they have succeeded in
"embracing, extending, and mutilating" HTML by adding a library of
proprietary extensions to anything their software exports. HTML pages
generated by Microsoft products can generally only be viewed correctly
with Microsoft products. In addition, Microsoft has ignored Latin-1 and
Unicode standards in placing special characters (like fancy quotes) in
reserved address regions that they should not be. HTML pages generated by
Microsoft software thus often looks like they were written by a
grammatically-challenged individual when viewed in, say, Netscape. For
this reason, I would rather see PowerPoint presentations saved in PDF than
in HTML.

Thanks again for your suggestions; I will use them in my next revision ;-)

Mike

Re: Ban MS-Word 
Theron William Stanford 
Wed, 20 Feb 2002 19:42:39 -0800 

According to a recent post,

> The BYU Unix User's Group

consists of the following people:

> Michael Halcrow
> Lancaster, CA
> 
> Stuart Jansen
> Lovelock, NV
> 
> Andy Bradford
> Provo, UT
> 
> Steve Meyers
> Provo, UT
> 
> Phillip Lee Hellewell
> Idaho Falls, ID
> 
> Arthur Moore
> Provo, UT
> 
> Jon Dehdari
> Flower Mound, TX
> 
> Brent Thomson
> Provo, UT
> 
> Rogelio Flores
> Juarez, Mexico
> 
> Gary Thornock
> Provo UT
> 
> Hans Fugal
> Pleasant Grove, UT

How was this decided?  How did I get booted?  Or did you just not include me
because I still use MS-Word?

Theron

Re: Ban MS-Word 
Steve Meyers 
Wed, 20 Feb 2002 20:32:23 -0800 

You didn't specifically ask for your name to be included when Michael
asked who wanted their names on it.

On Wed, 2002-02-20 at 20:58, Theron William Stanford wrote:
> According to a recent post,
> 
> > The BYU Unix User's Group
> 
> consists of the following people:
> 
> > Michael Halcrow
> > Lancaster, CA
> > 
> > Stuart Jansen
> > Lovelock, NV
> > 
> > Andy Bradford
> > Provo, UT
> > 
> > Steve Meyers
> > Provo, UT
> > 
> > Phillip Lee Hellewell
> > Idaho Falls, ID
> > 
> > Arthur Moore
> > Provo, UT
> > 
> > Jon Dehdari
> > Flower Mound, TX
> > 
> > Brent Thomson
> > Provo, UT
> > 
> > Rogelio Flores
> > Juarez, Mexico
> > 
> > Gary Thornock
> > Provo UT
> > 
> > Hans Fugal
> > Pleasant Grove, UT
> 
> How was this decided?  How did I get booted?  Or did you just not include me
> because I still use MS-Word?
> 
> Theron
> 
> --------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 
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Re: Ban MS-Word 
Theron William Stanford 
Thu, 21 Feb 2002 12:52:33 -0800 

> You didn't specifically ask for your name to be included when
> Michael asked who wanted their names on it.

But this is not my point.  I realize that he asked for names for the *letter*;
however, he signs it "The BYU Unix User's Group".

Is membership in the group conditioned upon commitment to participating in any
and all forms of anti-MS sentiment?

Perhaps it would be better if names were listed without an affiliation.  Or do
you prefer that BYU UUG remain at 11 persons?  (Makes the binary grab bag come
up empty quite a bit, no?)

Theron

> 
> On Wed, 2002-02-20 at 20:58, Theron William Stanford wrote:
> > According to a recent post,
> > 
> > > The BYU Unix User's Group
> > 
> > consists of the following people:
> > 
> > > Michael Halcrow
> > > Lancaster, CA
> > > 
> > > Stuart Jansen
> > > Lovelock, NV
> > > 
> > > Andy Bradford
> > > Provo, UT
> > > 
> > > Steve Meyers
> > > Provo, UT
> > > 
> > > Phillip Lee Hellewell
> > > Idaho Falls, ID
> > > 
> > > Arthur Moore
> > > Provo, UT
> > > 
> > > Jon Dehdari
> > > Flower Mound, TX
> > > 
> > > Brent Thomson
> > > Provo, UT
> > > 
> > > Rogelio Flores
> > > Juarez, Mexico
> > > 
> > > Gary Thornock
> > > Provo UT
> > > 
> > > Hans Fugal
> > > Pleasant Grove, UT
> > 
> > How was this decided?  How did I get booted?  Or did you just not
> > include me because I still use MS-Word?

Re: Ban MS-Word 
Frank Sorenson 
Thu, 21 Feb 2002 13:04:30 -0800 

On Thu, 21 Feb 2002, Theron William Stanford wrote:
> > You didn't specifically ask for your name to be included when
> > Michael asked who wanted their names on it.
> 
> But this is not my point.  I realize that he asked for names for the *letter*;
> however, he signs it "The BYU Unix User's Group".
> 
> Is membership in the group conditioned upon commitment to participating in any
> and all forms of anti-MS sentiment?
> 
> Perhaps it would be better if names were listed without an affiliation.  Or do
> you prefer that BYU UUG remain at 11 persons?  (Makes the binary grab bag come
> up empty quite a bit, no?)
> 
> Theron

I agree.  I'd prefer not to have my name associated with the letter, but 
I'd like to continue association with the UUG.  Being a member of one 
group (BYU UUG) shouldn't mean that someone is a member of the other 
(letter advocates).

Frank
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
Frank Sorenson
CSR Computer Science Department
Brigham Young University
[EMAIL PROTECTED]

Follow-up on Editorial Submission 
Michael Halcrow 
Thu, 21 Feb 2002 15:47:43 -0800 

Kallee,

If the Daily Universe decides to print the article on "Ban Microsoft Docs"
next week, please remove the reference to the "BYU Unix Users Group" on
the bottom of the letter, and keep only the names listed. There has been
one member of the group who, although his name is not specifically listed,
does not want to be affiliated with the letter through the reference to
the group.

Thank you,
Michael Halcrow

---------------------------------------------- | ------------------------
Michael Halcrow                                | [EMAIL PROTECTED]
Research Assistant, Network Security Lab       | Dept. of Comp. Science
                                               | Brigham Young University
Where did you want to go yesterday?            |
---------------------------------------------- | ------------------------

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