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The military, MS, and XML (was RE: framers digest: April 28, 2003)

Chris Despopoulos, maker of fine FM plug-ins, wrote: 

> You ignore the reason XML exists...  SGML was made to satisfy 
> a need of 
> the US military - data that is not "trapped in proprietary file 
> formats."  In fact, this is a military requirement.  

I always thought the military requirement was for mind-numbing,
formulaic, rigid, and anal documentation -- which SGML certainly
facilitates. ;-)

<snip> I guess the military does blow smoke, but 
> considering they currently account for a full half of the US gvmt 
> budget, that's enough smoke to mean something.

Whoa, can't let that factoid pass. The FY03 federal budget is nearly
$2.2 trillion. The defense portion of that (_including_ intelligence and
Dept. of Energy nuclear-weapons-related spending) is $396 billion, or
_18%_ of the total. And that's up a percent, after a whopping $46
billion increase from FY02, the biggest one-year increase since Vietnam.
[These numbers are from Council for a Livable World
(http://www.clw.org/milspend/dodbud03.html), which generally opposes
military spending. The CBO's numbers are slightly lower.) 

As a Libertarian, I'd like to see lower defense spending (and a much
lower federal budget). But facts are facts, and the liberal canard that
defense is the biggest part of the federal budget has _never_ been true
-- at least, not since WW2. In fact, until FY03, it had been shrinking,
relative to total federal spending and to GDP, for many years. 
> In terms of data, proprietary means only accessible via an inherently 
> limited set of tools.  Maybe that's a problem, and maybe it's not.

Tool sets are always limited. Everything is, except ideas and opinions.
;-) As I said in earlier posts, future accessibility is affected more by
the ubiquity of the file format than by whether it's proprietary or not.
Whether you like it or not, MS is the current winner on that score. 
> I see it sort of like the argument between DC and AC current. 
<snip details of AC/DC analogy>  Imagine the cost of conversion to AC! 
> This is precisely what is referred to when people bring up the "MS 
> Office barrier of exit."  XML is like a transformer that can wire your

> DC appliances to AC, and your AC apliances to DC.  <more snip>

I'm not sure I buy the analogy at all. Isn't XML (like SGML) primarily
the storage medium (and secondarily transport)? If there's a
"transformer," wouldn't it be the schema, DTD, or whatever that converts
from storage to presentation? 

In any case, it seems to me that MS's "crime" once again consists of
enabling -- OK, encouraging -- their customers to use MS's proprietary
extensions of a standard. If most users find increased utility in those
extensions and adopt them, then the sheer numbers mean that virtually
every competing vendor for the next 20 years will offer tools for
dealing with the MS files. That's why I said earlier that there's safety
in numbers. :-) 


Richard G. Combs
Senior Technical Writer
Voyant Technologies, Inc.
richardDOTcombs AT voyanttechDOTcom
rgcombs AT freeDASHmarketDOTnet


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