[LINK] Not the product of a demented Borg mind, apparently

Rick Welykochy rick at praxis.com.au
Wed Feb 20 12:26:59 EST 2008

jim birch wrote:

> "A normal programmer would conclude that Office's binary file formats:
> -are deliberately obfuscated
> -are the product of a demented Borg mind
> -were created by insanely bad programmers
> -and are impossible to read or create correctly."
> Not so, according to Joel Spolsky.
> http://www.joelonsoftware.com/items/2008/02/19.html

An amusing puff piece for locking oneself into MS products. THis
software developer is so glib it hurts. He must be wearing lead-lined
Mickeysoty brain-damping glasses just to write this stuff.

This programmer's solution for reading MS Office documents is
so simple it hurts. All you have to do is get an extra computer,
install a version of an MS operating system and then install MS
office itself. Once this is done, you can connect to it using
COM or .Net and it will do all the work! Fantastic.

On Linux or OS X, for example, you can get the text from a Word
document or the cells from an Excel spreadsheet in a few lines
Visual Basic of code. Voila! Nothing more to write.

Can anyone see the folly and hubris of this solution? For a
start, you have to be running IIS and ASP.NET to make it work.
So, no solution there for non-MS systems.

Just the other day, coincidentally, I needed to load an Excel
spreadsheet into a Linux system running Apache + MySQL. The
solution I found was quite simple, but it worked. There is a Perl
solution that reads the OLE components from an MS Office document
and makes them available to the script. Easy, incomplete, unbloated
and no licencing fees or MS tax applied.

Spolsky would have you believe that all you have to do is use
MS products exclusively to read office docs. There is no need
to know the proprietary format of the binary data contained therein.
I doubt he has wondered out of his MS sandbox into the real world
of computer science and technology.

I saved a good quote for the last:

    "The binary file specification is, at most, going to save you
     a few minutes reverse engineering a remarkably complex system."

A better oxymoron could not be had :)


Rick Welykochy || Praxis Services

A polar bear is a rectangular bear after a coordinate transform.
      -- Anon.

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