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

Michael Still mikal at stillhq.com
Wed Feb 20 15:55:48 EST 2008

Rick Welykochy wrote:
> 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 :)

Joel was the product manager on Microsoft Excel before he left to start
his own company...


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