Foxerrr…. BetaNews: Sun Releases ODF Plugin for Office

06 Jul

This is a big day for Microsoft Office, it’s the day they get to say, "Hey, SUN – good job!  You used Open Source and made it work with our stuff!  Open Source and Microsoft don’t have to be on opposite sides of the fence all the time!!"    So why is it that BetaNews portrays this effort and sentiment and Microsoft as the bad guys?image

Let’s completely gloss over the fact that Microsoft openly supported Sun’s effort (and anyone elses efforts to create this – and other plug-ins) and move straight to the erroneous statement that Microsoft’s Office Product has a "bug" that does not allow it to load this filter by default.

Mind you – I don’t work over there on Office, so I can’t speak authoritatively about this, in fact all of what you’re about to read – is strictly my humble opinion.  But anyone with an ounce of skill in software development can see … that’s not a bug, it’s a security feature.  Why?  Because first off it does not apply just to that (the SUN ODF) filter which is what was implied – although that does lend itself to the bug concept, what it implies is that only a specific set of filters ARE applied, and all others are ignored. 

So, assuming that since it applies to all filters being loaded as an exclusionary system, and that it happens at program run-time (a specific time) on filters that aren’t actual filters from the program (indicating it specifically checks for this), and it merely prevents them from loading as a default  … one can pretty much deduce that… it’s not a bug.  Why? It’s something meant to prevent an action that was not originally designed into the application from happening without the users specific knowledge and or their specifically choosing for that action to occur…  logically that is not a bug.  Or it is a most convenient bug because it asserts itself just like a very detailed security countermeasure.  Is it an annoying security feature (ala UAC?) yes.  But like UAC, if used it increases the safety and security of the computer dramatically.

For years Microsoft got trashed for lax security, for allowing the user to without knowing enable security risks to their computer.  Open Source and Security experts correctly railed on this and said they wished Microsoft would not do this.  I could very easily be wrong – like I said, I don’t know the code and I don’t know the specifics better than anyone else.  But it seems to me that it’s very possible we’re seeing the effects of the old addage, "be careful what you wish for".

If Office by default allowed that behavior (as it did I recall at one time), filters which it could not directly identify as it’s own – could slip all kinds of cool viruses and worms in while it loads and no one would ever know.  Does no one remember that?  Office was changed to prevent this very scenario and all the open-source pundits out there (including Sun) said, "It’s about time!!". 

Now they say that Microsoft security is by doing this blocking the seemless use of their ODF filter, uh… duh… yeah.  You can’t have it both ways people.  You either want the tool to be safe, or you want it to be easy and allow seemless installation of 3rd party tools.  Has no one considered this? 

And no – Microsoft cannot, by default, say, "Oh you’re code from Sun?  Sure – c’mon in!".  A) There isn’t a reasonable method of proving a plug-in filters authenticity in this scenario.   B) Microsoft isn’t responsible for another companies code – if the plug-in company chooses to change it at any time to something that screws up a system – Microsoft gets the heat for it and I’m no lawyer but I would bet dollars to donuts there’s legal liability involved by allowing someone to insert code that could be malicious or damaging into your work flow process.   C) Even if they COULD it’s illegal for Microsoft to give preference for one company’s work over another – they open the door for Sun, they have to open the door for any hacker with a business license.  So anyone who decides to establish a legal dummy company and use that as a way of social engineering their way into all the Office Products could do so.  Effectively – they just need to become a "partner" of Microsoft in the same way SUN or any other company.  And yes, as insane as that sounds – people are actually trying to do just that already and have been caught.  Force Microsoft to accept any plug-in you open that door.

If they accept a plug-in, and they put it into their code – it’s their liability.  Force them to accept anything and run with anything – and you force them to take a liability no other company out there faces, and no sane company would. 

For BetaNews, or Sun to expect Microsoft to call this a "bug" – is just beyond the scope of decency.  Microsoft has hailed their achievement – openly given them kudos for development of the tool – and in return they get slapped with "you have a bug and you don’t play nice".  Neither of those statements – was or are true.  From SUN I can kind of see a bit of that, it’s common rivalry in the business.  But anyone who purports to have "news" in the title should at least get the other side of the story before print.

BetaNews has shown itself in my mind to be just that, "beta" news… News that isn’t proven, and isn’t supported.

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Posted by on July 6, 2007 in Uncategorized


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