On Fri, Feb 12, 2010 at 12:13:11PM +1100, clanc...@cybec.com.au wrote:

> On Thu, 11 Feb 2010 10:18:18 +0000, a...@ashleysheridan.co.uk (Ashley
> Sheridan) wrote:
> >On Thu, 2010-02-11 at 10:16 +1100, Ross McKay wrote:
> >
> ...........
> >
> >There's a good reason for OpenOffice having some difficulties with MS
> >Office documents. Back when MS rushed through getting their document
> >standard ratified by ISO (which itself is a whole other story) they
> >didn't explain all the details quite as well as they might have. Later
> >on, MS found they were having some difficulty following their own
> >'standard' and so altered it in various ways in Office2007. Needless to
> >say, ISO weren't too happy when MS asked if they could just 'change the
> >specs' for their file format, and quite rightly refused to do so.
> >
> >In short, this means that there is a MS ISO standard that MS is the only
> >one not trying to follow, and software like OpenOffice is left to
> >reverse engineering the format again.
> When the first Word Macro virus appeared in the early 90s, the AV industry
> approached
> Microsoft for the specifications of the internal structure of the Word
> documents. After
> some discussion Microsoft agreed to make these available to firms who
> signed an NDA.
> Several large firms did so, but when they got the specifications they
> immediately
> discovered that they bore very little relation to the actual documents. When
> Microsoft was
> approached about this their reply was "Well, that's all we've got!"
> The industry had to run a joint program to reverse engineer the
> specifications before they
> could work out how to remove the virus.
> The story that went around was that with each update Microsoft hired a
> new batch of young
> graduates <aside>they don't have preconceived notions (a.k.a. experience),
> and they don't
> have extravagant ideas of their own worth</aside>, told them vaguely what
> they wanted, and
> left them to it. Then, as soon as they had something that sort of worked,
> they let them go
> again. So there was no continuity, no documentation, no hope of bug fixes,
> and very little
> likelihood that the next update would be improved in any meaningful sense.
> I have seen
> nothing to suggest that anything has changed.

I suspect any lack of continuity was more due to the shifting of
personnel internally to differing projects, rather than the hiring of
all new coders each time.

But more importantly, I suspect MS coders just coded without writing any
docs. Coders usually suck at documentation and will avoid it unless
forced. And if forced to write docs, the docs were just a toss-off no
one ever actually looked at.

Microsoft's attitude, I'm sure was, "Why should we care about other
players in the market? Just buy our crap and you won't have to worry
about our formats." (Except until the next upgrade.)

I think ISO's policy should be that if you're a company forwarding a
standard, your off-the-shelf software should verifiably duplicate that
standard. Otherwise, go pound sand. Same if you're a community proposing
a standard. Produce some software which adheres to that standard or shut


Paul M. Foster

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